Mr Jalal, speaking to London-based daily Asharq al-Awsat on 9 November, stressed that cuts to energy subsidies – which total a whopping E£130bn ($18.8bn) in the budget for the current year ending June 2014 – will be introduced gradually over a number of years to avoid a shock to consumers. Food subsidies (E£30bn [$4.4bn] in the 2013-14 budget) will remain untouched.

The minister says a plan to reduce energy subsidies is being drawn up and will be presented to the next government. He adds that the smart cards, that had been distributed to the population over the past two months, are intended to stop any smuggling or theft of petroleum products. The scheme was originally intended as a means of rationing the availability of subsidized products to needy elements of society (MEES, 19 October 2012). This was slated to come into effect in July and August this year but since the 3 July coup this element of the program has been kicked into the long grass (MEES, 5 July). (CONTINUED - 878 WORDS)