PM: Subsidies favor rich over poor

Luxor–Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif on Monday criticized a government program intended to provide citizens with medical treatment at state expense.

"Those with connections to parliamentarians are qualified to receive free medical treatment. But we need to make sure this service goes to those who are entitled to it," Nazif said, welcoming recommendations by the Central Auditing Agency on means of making the program more effective.

The prime minister was replying to a comment made at the Fourth National Youth Conference in Luxor, where a young man in the audience told him, "poor people are literally dying because they aren’t entitled to free medical treatment."

Nazif also admitted that the current system of state subsidies tended to favor the rich over the poor. "We spend LE95 billion every year on subsidizing certain goods and services," he said. "But we’re thinking about turning this into a cash disbursement system so as to make sure subsidies go to those who need them most."

"For example, a single cylinder of butane gas costs the government LE50, but is sold to the public for only LE5," he added. "Cylinders are often leaked onto the black market, however, where they are sold to rich factory owners."

At the conclusion of the conference, the prime minister reassured listeners that the government was "working transparently" and was open to constructive criticism. "We can’t hide anything from the media," he said.

Translated from the Arabic Edition.

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