Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1217, (16 - 22 October 2014)
Tuesday,17 October, 2017
Issue 1217, (16 - 22 October 2014)

Ahram Weekly

Ration doubts continue

Two months into implementation of the new ration-card and bread-distribution system, Rania Galal finds that glitches persist

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eco1
Al-Ahram Weekly

Subsidies, particularly on food supplies and bread, have long been a headache for governments in Egypt. Implementation of the new ration-card and bread-distribution system has improved the lives of many but it has also brought new problems.

It has now been two months since the smart-card system went into effect. Use of the system to distribute subsidised bread is seen by many as a major improvement. However, others believe that it leaves a lot to be desired and even wish the system had not been introduced in the first place.

Those who like the new ration-card system say they appreciate the better quality and wider range, though more expensive, commodities.
“The commodities are certainly of better quality, and this is what really matters. We used to get stuff that was of poor quality and had to put up with it, but now we have a variety to choose from,” said Heba Anwar, a lawyer from the Cairo neighbourhood of Ain Shams.

The government recently reformed the ration system, granting each citizen LE15 worth of products from a list of subsidised commodities at no cost. These commodities include everything from meat and chicken to vegetables, flour and detergent. Under the old system, ration cardholders received only two kg of rice, two kg of sugar and 1.5 kg of cooking oil for about LE6.

The idea behind the reform was to prevent the misuse of food items as some recipients would take the cheap rice, sugar and cooking oil and then sell it on for a higher price. The reform was also carried out to ensure the better targeting of the needy. Currently, around 18 million families, or more than 65 million Egyptians, are eligible for subsidised food commodities.

The new ration and supply system offers each citizen an extra LE7 of goods during the month of Ramadan. Rations are determined by the rate of inflation and are adjusted based on price fluctuations to ensure that everyone can afford staple goods each month.

“The system is really good because now I can get what I want at better quality,” said Samia Saad, a schoolteacher from Cairo.

At the moment, ration cardholders get their commodities from specific merchants, but soon they will be able to get their monthly supply from any grocery store.

“We need to get our supply from any merchant as this will save us a lot of effort. This should be applied just like for bread, which we can get from any bakery,” said Mamdouh Ali, a cardholder from Menya.

The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trade said in statements earlier this month that in October citizens holding ration cards will be able to get their monthly supplies from any grocer or even from cooperative stores.

“I used to get my stuff from the supply office a few blocks away from where I am staying, but now they have shut it down,” said Om Zeinab, a janitor in Heliopolis. “I now depend on my daughter, who gets the monthly supplies, because the office is far away.” She said that she would like to see the monthly supplies made available at all grocers and cooperative stores.

“Grocers often claim they do not have enough commodities or that they have run out of supplies,” said Hussein Salem Hassan from Assiut. “Most of the time I do not get my monthly supplies in full.”

He was also not satisfied with the quality. Hassan had not heard about the option of a wider choice of goods, such as chicken, meat or detergents, with the new ration cards. “I get bread with my card, though, and it is a good system,” he said.

The new bread-subsidy system offers high-quality subsidised bread at five piastres a loaf, with a maximum of 150 loaves for each registered citizen every month. Cardholders who do not use their bread quota get extra points which they can then exchange for other products at the grocer where they collect their rationed goods.

“Any system faces problems, and they will disappear as time goes on,” the ministry said in a press statement. “The lack of commodities is due to the transition to the new system, but this problem will be settled very soon.”

However, some people still believe that some grocers are taking the subsidised commodities and claiming that they did not receive them in the first place.

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