The political economy of food subsidy reform in Egypt
Egypt has a large food subsidy program that has created a relatively effective social safety net, but it has also drained budgetary resources and proved to be poorly targeted toward the poor. Discussions about reforming the system to improve its effectiveness have run into extreme political sensitivities surrounding the issue of food subsidies. Egypt, therefore, well illustrates the quandaries that policymakers and others contemplating food subsidy reform face in developing countries. This study examines the political economy of food subsidy reform in Egypt and discusses the economic and political advantages and disadvantages of nine possible reforms. The study concludes that the reforms that have the greatest chance of success are those that reduce the access of the wealthy while increasing the access of the truly needy, but the timing, sequence, and trade-offs of such reforms have to be taken into account before they are implemented.
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