By Mohamed Salah
Abdel Kawy Khalifa, the minister for public utilities, declared during the inauguration of Al-Rawda water plant that the government plans to raise consumer tap water prices, especially in tourist areas and industrial establishments.
According to the minister, the increase is necessary in light of the budget deficit suffered by the Holding Company for Drinking Water and Sanitation; the company has not been receiving any subsidies from the state for a year.
The minister stated that he would seek cabinet approval.
Mohie El- Sairafie, the ministry’s official spokesman, confirmed that no increase will be imposed without the approval of the cabinet and that the whole project is still under scrutiny.
He also stated that if the cabinet adopts the increase it will only apply to luxury tourist destinations and high water consumption industries.
He added that the amount of the increase is being considered carefully, so it will not unduly affect businesses. The minister also stressed that the intended rise has nothing to do with any austerity policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund.
If the prices increase gets a green light from the cabinet, it will not affect all the tourist compounds. In the remote areas of south Sinai and Hurghada for instance, businesses produce their own fresh water by building desalination plants. “Even if the decision is applied it will not affect us” said Hesham Aly, the chairman of the Touristic Investors Association of South Sinai.
Mahmoud El-Askalany of the consumer group Citizens Against High Cost of Living sees the expected increase as a negative indicator of the new cabinet’s policies.
“The previous governments tried to impose austerity policies such as the liberation of the price of services, but they always retreated under popular pressure. Now the economic circumstances are much more difficult and such a move will only make bad matters worse for the poor,” said Askalany.
The representative of the consumer group called on the government to revise its policies, and to study them well in order to avoid the rise of “hunger revolution.”