“This crisis could be significantly more serious than the coronavirus crisis,” Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly said at a cabinet meeting Monday, referring to the economic impact of Russia’s war in Ukraine.
The Middle East countries that depend for the majority of their grain imports on both Russia and Ukraine, two of the world’s largest grain exporters, are particularly affected.
For Egypt and other Middle Eastern countries struggling with the ripple effects of the war, that’s a cause for concern. Just 10 years ago, revolutions across the region toppled old dictators, partly due to a rise in the price of raw materials. “Bread, freedom, social justice!” was one of the most popular chants on the streets of Egypt during the Arab Spring protests.
In the three weeks since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the price of unsubsidized bread in Egypt has risen by as much as 25% in some bakeries. Cairo set the price of unsubsidized bread on Monday to limit the inflationary impact.
Egypt is the world’s largest buyer of wheat, and about 80% of wheat imports came from Russia and Ukraine in 2021, according to Reuters.
“Food insecurity can definitely lead to greater political unrest,” Lama Fakih, Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, told DailyExpertNews. “These are some countries that are already struggling with conflicts [and] of political upheavals.”
The discontent has already manifested itself in the form of a protest in Iraq, where a relatively small demonstration on March 9 in the central city of Nasiriyah against a rise in food prices was attributed by the government to the war in Ukraine. The government later announced a support package for citizens, including one-time grants to the needy and a review of the ration card budget ahead of the Islamic fasting month of Ramadan.
“We are approaching the month of Ramadan and we are concerned about price increases,” said Mohamed Ali, a 42-year-old Iraqi day laborer living in Baghdad. “There is an increase in most food prices, especially cooking oil.”
Much of the region was already suffering from poverty and food insecurity, but the war in Europe is only exacerbating the situation, said Timothy Kaldas, a fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy in Cairo.
“The 2011 [Egyptian] The uprising came after a decade of rising poverty,” Kaldas told DailyExpertNews. “And in 2019, when Egyptians protested in multiple cities across the country, the regime found that the people they arrested… were driven primarily by economic grievances. .”
On Monday, the Egyptian pound fell 14% against the dollar after the Russian invasion of Ukraine prompted foreign investors to pull billions of dollars out of Egyptian government bond markets. The central bank also raised overnight interest rates by one percentage point and the government announced an economic support package of 130 billion Egyptian pounds ($7.05 billion).
“Countries that already face widespread food insecurity are the ones that have been hit hardest,” Fakih said, “and this includes Yemen, Lebanon and Syria.”
Lebanon last month said it had enough wheat reserves for just one month. It imports almost 60% of its wheat from Ukraine.
Hend Zaki, a 38-year-old Egyptian mother of five who runs a food business from home, said she has lost customers since raising her meal prices two weeks ago.
“I’m practically paying double for everything now,” she told DailyExpertNews. “We have been greatly harmed … there are some very poor people [here]†
With additional reporting from Adam Pourahmadi and Aqeel Najim, DailyExpertNews
Other top news from the Middle East
Egypt, Israel and UAE leaders hold trilateral talks amid concerns over Iran
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi on Monday, official reports said Tuesday. The meeting focused on global developments “particularly related to energy, market stability and food security,” Egypt said.
- Background: The meeting in Egypt comes just days after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a historic trip to the UAE, his first visit to an Arab nation since the start of the Syrian uprising in 2011. It also comes as nuclear talks between western powers and Iran are reaching an advanced stage.
- Why it matters: Israel has repeatedly expressed concern about Iran’s growing influence in the region. In recent days, Bennett said he is “deeply concerned” that the US is considering removing the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps from its terrorism blacklist. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not confirmed its intention to do so.
Judge accuses central bank governor of Lebanon of illicit enrichment
Lebanese central bank governor Riad Salameh and his brother Raja were charged Monday with illegal enrichment, Lebanese judge Ghada Aoun told DailyExpertNews. She ordered Raja’s arrest on Thursday “for the role he played in helping Riad launder money by buying property in France,” she said. The governor did not respond to DailyExpertNews’s request for comment, but in an earlier statement obtained by Reuters, Governor Salameh said “not a single cent” of public funds has been used to pay fees to a company owned by his brother. . Last week, Raja Salameh’s lawyer said allegations of illegal enrichment and money laundering against his client were unfounded. He called the evidence “media speculation without any evidence,” Reuters reported. DailyExpertNews was unable to reach Raja Salameh.
- Background: Salameh’s tenure has come under closer scrutiny since the financial system imploded in 2019, the most destabilizing crisis since Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war. In February, Judge Aoun subpoenaed him after failing to attend three hearings as a witness in investigations into his alleged misconduct at the central bank. Reuters reports that court security was unable to locate him.
- Why it matters: This is the first indictment against the governor, who has held office for nearly 30 years. His wealth is also being investigated by authorities in France and Switzerland. The indictment could increase political tensions between Salameh’s powerful supporters and opponents.
Saudi Arabia emphasizes ‘essential role’ of OPEC+ oil deal
Saudi Arabia’s cabinet on Tuesday emphasized “the essential role” of the OPEC+ agreement in bringing balance and stability to oil markets.
- Background: Several major consumer countries, including the United States, have called on producers to increase production at a faster pace to help calm the price of crude oil, which has risen after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The alliance has increased production by 400,000 barrels per day every month since August to reverse the cuts it made as the Covid-19 pandemic boosted demand.
- Why it matters: The statement, just over a week before the OPEC+ meeting, indicates that the group is unlikely to decide to increase oil production at a faster pace. OPEC+, the organization of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, including Russia, has so far resisted calls to increase supply. It will hold its next meeting on March 31.
What we’re looking at
Gulf states’ relations with the US have been under strain of late, most recently being put to the test when the Biden administration asked Saudi Arabia and the UAE to help cut oil prices by cutting production. feed. That request was denied. Becky Anderson dissects the rift between the Allies.
Around the region
Meet Stan, the world’s most complete and most expensive tyrannosaurus rex. The 67-million-year-old artifact, named after the paleontologist who excavated it, was unearthed in 1992.
188 bones, it is one of the best preserved and most studied T-Rex skeletons. For years it remained behind closed doors at the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in Hill City,
South Dakota. But now it has a new home.
In 2020, the 11-meter-long and 4-meter-tall T-Rex was auctioned for $31.8 million, a world record for any skeleton sale. Initially, the buyer was anonymous, but a recent announcement by Abu Dhabi’s Department of Culture and Tourism (DCT) has revealed the owner of Stan and a new development in the region: the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi.
Opening in 2025, the museum is part of the city’s plan to transform Abu Dhabi into an international cultural center. DCT Abu Dhabi Chairman Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak said:
DailyExpertNews’s Becky Anderson, why Stan was worth every penny: “It will be worth everything when visitors come to see this amazing specimen… the last thing we want is for these amazing objects to remain in private hands so no one can see them.”
Stan is well known in paleontological circles. Now his presence will be part of the Natural History Museum’s 13.8 billion year journey through time and space. The T-Rex will be on display alongside other specimens, including the 7 billion-year-old Murchison Meteorite, which crashed into Australia more than 40 years ago.
By Tasmiyah Randeree, DailyExpertNews