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Egypt: A Third of Population Lives in Poverty

FILE - A man picks through rubbish on a road in Cairo, Egypt, Oct. 29, 2018.

One in three Egyptians is living in poverty, the official statistics agency reported Monday, following years of austerity measures aimed at reforming the economy.

The report said 32.5% of Egyptians lived below the poverty line in 2018, up from 27.8% in 2015 and 16.7% in 2000. It said 6.2% of Egyptians live in extreme poverty. It set the poverty line at around $1.45 per day and the extreme poverty line at less than a dollar a day.

Egypt has been struggling to rebuild its economy following years of unrest since the 2011 uprising. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi has repeatedly urged Egyptians to be patient with the economic reforms as authorities have waged a sweeping crackdown on dissent.

FILE - A general view of Ezbet al-Nakhl, a shanty town north of the Egyptian capital Cairo, is seen Oct. 13, 2018.
FILE - A general view of Ezbet al-Nakhl, a shanty town north of the Egyptian capital Cairo, is seen Oct. 13, 2018.

The new report from the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics was the first official look at poverty and income since the government secured a $12 billion bailout package from the International Monetary Fund in 2016. As part of the reform program, the government floated the currency, slashed subsidies on fuel, services and utilities, and imposed a value-added tax.

The IMF said in May that those efforts "have been successful in achieving macroeconomic stabilization, a recovery in growth, and an improvement in the business climate."

But they have also caused widespread price hikes that have taken a heavy toll on poor and middle-class Egyptians. The austerity measures have stoked discontent but there are few public signs of unrest. Authorities have severely restricted any criticism of the government, with thousands jailed and all unauthorized protests banned. Independent polling in Egypt is prohibited.

In televised comments Tuesday, el-Sissi said "any government, when it deals with such very important issues, takes into consideration the people's reactions."

"We trust in you, your awareness and the will for change. Your patience was my honor," he said.

The IMF is set to deliver the final round of the bailout in the coming weeks.