Egypt tightens eligibility for food subsidy cards

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt on Tuesday tightened rules for obtaining food subsidy cards, capping the number of new claimants per family and setting income limits as it works to reform its bloated economy.

Egypt agreed a $12 billion three-year loan with the International Monetary Fund in November, in exchange for a program including subsidy cuts and tax hikes. It hopes the reforms will help attract back investors who fled after an uprising in 2011.

Inflation has soared since import-dependant Egypt floated its pound currency in November, roughly halving it in value and increasing the population’s reliance on basic subsidized goods such as bread, cooking oil and sugar.

The new subsidy rules do not apply to the country’s existing 20.8 million holders of cards that now help meet the staple food needs of some 68.8 million at an estimated cost to the government of 85 billion Egyptian pounds ($4.79 billion) this year.

They are instead targeting new cardholders among a rapidly growing population that stands at around 93.5 million.

They set the maximum number of family members eligible per card at four, and thresholds for incomes of 1,500 Egyptian pounds ($84.5) per month for full-time workers and for pensions of 1,200 pounds, according to a supply ministry decree.

($1 = 17.7500 Egyptian pounds)

Reporting by Ehab Farouk; Writing by Eric Knecht; editing by John Stonestreet