World

Egypt defends austerity measures amid fears of unrest

CAIRO — Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi on Tuesday defended austerity measures aimed at reviving the economy, amid fears of public anger that may have motivated the arrests of activists and bloggers in recent weeks.

The government recently raised the price of electricity and tap water as part of an economic reform program linked to a three-year, $12 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, which Egypt secured in 2016.

A new round of fuel subsidy cuts is expected soon.

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El-Sissi said late Tuesday in televised comments that the government spends some $18.6 billion a year on subsidies to cover fuel, food, and electricity. Each family receives an average of about $60, he said.

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El-Sissi said he refused to postpone ‘‘necessary reforms’’ to improve the economy. He urged Egyptians to be patient as the reforms take effect.

‘‘All challenges and difficulties could be easy if we endure them,’’ he said. ‘‘We have to pay the price together.’’

He was speaking at an outdoor iftar, a feast marking the end of the daily dawn-to-dusk fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

His comments came hours after the government announced it would slash electricity subsidies, raising charges by an average of 26 percent.

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Electricity Minister Mohamed Shaker said Tuesday that electricity charges for factories would rise by 41.8 percent and for households by 20.9 percent.

The new charges will take effect in July, he said.

Egypt’s economy is still recovering from the unrest following the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.