CAIRO (AP) — A video of an enraged tuk-tuk driver unloading on the state of Egypt’s flagging economy went viral on Thursday, underlining growing popular discontent in the country over shortages of food staples and broader business malaise.
Filmed in the crowded lanes of a working class Cairo neighborhood, the video shows the driver, surrounded by crowds, slamming the government for spending money on pomp at recent state ceremonies while the poor suffer.
“You watch Egypt on television and it’s like Vienna, you go out on the street and it’s like Somalia’s cousin,” he says in the clip, originally aired on Wednesday night on the pro-government Al Hayat television channel.
By Thursday afternoon it had gained 1.6 million views and 48,000 likes on one Facebook page, with thousands more likes and supportive comments being added each hour to the criticism-heavy footage, rare on television.
In a sign of the sensitivity of the matter, the network quickly pulled the video from its own media sites. Egypt has a long history of suppressing news that can be seen as damaging to its image, a trend that intensified enormously under President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi’s rule.
El-Sissi, the former army chief who overthrew his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor in 2013, stamping out opposition and dissent from all corners and promising stability and a better economy for all.
However, in recent months, he has been preaching the virtues of belt-tightening to the country of over 90 million people, ahead of austerity measures, a currency devaluation and price hikes needed to obtain a crucial bailout by the International Monetary Fund.
The $12 billion bailout loan aimed at supporting the government’s reform package has yet to be finalized, but could come as early as next week, hopefully paving the way for sustainable economic growth that generates jobs for the country’s surging population.
But for the unnamed driver of the motorized rickshaw, recent shortages of staples such as rice, sugar and oil — some due to a shortage of dollars in the country and the plunging black market value of the Egyptian pound — could be traced to the policies of Egypt’s uncontested leader.
“Before the president was elected we had enough sugar, coffee, and rice,” he said. “What happened?”
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