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 evening it had gained some 2.2 million views and 62,000 likes on one Facebook page, with thousands more added each hour to the criticism-heavy footage, rare to be broadcast on television.
In a sign of how sensitive the matter is, 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 has intensified under the rule of President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.
El-Sissi, a former general and army chief, overthrew his elected but divisive Islamist predecessor in 2013, stamping out opposition and dissent with thousands jailed — but also promising stability and a better economy for all.
In more recent months, however, el-Sissi has urged belt-tightening in this 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 approval by the IMF’s board could come as early as next week if the conditions are met, 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?”