(Adds quote on prices)
CAIRO May 6 Former Egyptian army chief Abdel
Fattah al-Sisi, who is expected to win a presidential election
this month, said in a television interview broadcast on Tuesday
that costly energy subsidies could not be lifted quickly.
"The subsidies can't be removed suddenly ... People will not
tolerate that," Sisi told CBC and ONTV.
Heavy spending on energy subsidies has taken a toll on the
economy. But raising energy prices could trigger protests.
After the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak,
already high energy subsidy costs ballooned to a fifth of state
spending as the Egyptian pound plunged and due to an expanding
Egypt's finance minister has said that spending on energy
subsidies next year will be 10-12 percent above the 130 billion
Egyptian pounds ($18.6 billion) budgeted for in the current
fiscal year, unless immediate reforms are made.
The government of Mohamed Mursi, which was toppled last
July, worked out an agreement with the International Monetary
Fund that would have included austerity measures, higher taxes
and a reduction in subsidies. It was never implemented.
Last year's energy subsidy bill was more than 120 billion
Egyptian pounds, up from 115 billion the previous year.
Sisi has not provided details on how he would manage Egypt's
economy, which suffers from a weakening currency, massive
unemployment, a bloated public sector and a widening budget
In the television interview, Sisi suggested he would
intervene to protect the poor.
"I will create mechanisms for parallel markets if the people
do not help me help the poor," said Sisi.
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Writing by Michael Georgy; Editing
by Janet Lawrence, Bernard Orr)