Food subsidies in Egypt: reform options, distribution and welfare
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Egypt's food subsidies (in 1996/97 5.5 percent of government expenditures) cover rationed cooking oil and sugar (23 percent of subsidy cost) and unrationed bread and flour (77 percent). The subsidies enhance food security but are nontargeted and have substantial leakages. This paper uses a Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model to simulate the short-run effects of alternative food-subsidy scenarios. Government savings from reduced spending finance uniform cuts in direct tax rates across all household types. The model uses a 1996/97 database with detailed household information. The targeting of cooking oil and sugar subsidies to "the needy" (the bottom two quintiles in rural and urban areas) has a progressive effect while elimination of this subsidy is regressive. Disaggregated household consumption changes are small (+/-0.3 percent). The targeting of all food subsidies is pro-needy, partly due to important indirect effects. The consumption of the needy increases by 0.5 percent with little change for the nonneedy. Food subsidy elimination is regressive: the needy suffer a consumption loss of 1.1 percent. If the government savings instead are transferred to the needy, the impact is reversed: consumption increases by 4.2 percent for needy households while the nonneedy register a small loss. The overall policy implication is that food subsidy reform can benefit the needy with at worst only a modest negative impact on the nonneedy. If the subsidy is entirely eliminated, targeted government programs would be necessary to protect the needy from the negative impact. (C) 2000 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.
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