Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has hiked customs rates on dozens of “non-essential” imports as part of the government’s efforts to increase revenues to revive the ailing economy.
Morsi’s decree raises tariffs on a wide range of luxury goods, including shrimp, gambling tables, sunglasses, nuts and fireworks.
Egypt’s economy has been hit hard by the instability that followed the 2011 uprising that forced long-time Egyptian ruler Hosni Mubarak from power, with the vital tourism sector particularly affected.
The government is currently engaged in talks with the International Monetary Fund to secure a $4.8 billion loan, which would help attract other international lenders and reassure foreign investors.
The conditions for the loan have not been made public, but Morsi’s government has been pushing an austerity plan that would cut subsidies and raise taxes to shrink the budget deficit from its current level of almost 11 per cent. His government had initially aimed at 8.5 per cent but is now suggesting it could be 9.5 per cent.
Talks with the IMF were delayed in December when violent protests erupted and the president was forced to rescind his austerity plan. Some in the opposition and the business community have called for a national dialogue on the proposals to win public consent before any austerity measures are introduced. The past two years of political upheaval have kept investors from returning and have curtailed tourism, a foreign currency earner.