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Morsi has also backed down. In early December he announced a raft of tax hikes that many here believe was a price of the IMF loan. He reversed course within a day, as advisers and public outrage informed him that steep tax hikes could deal a blow to the Egyptian economy and to the pocketbooks of poor Egyptians. Are those tax increases still coming down the pike? Finance Minister Momtaz al-Saeed implied that was the case at the end of December.
Finally, it's unclear when the IMF money will become available. The IMF is expected to visit Cairo sometime this month. But historically, the international lender has been uncomfortable stumping up cash in uncertain situations. Egypt is to hold a parliamentary election within two months, and the government they put in office might not be willing to abide by any deal Morsi cuts now – a fact of which IMF negotiators will be well aware. Even after a successful parliamentary election, given Egypt's recent track record, it will probably be months before a new government is formed. Those new legislators may agree to the IMF's terms, but it seems quite likely that will be many months away from today. There's a very real risk that the IMF will stay on the sidelines when Egypt needs foreign capital the most.
To be sure, the IMF must remember cases of demanded subsidy cuts leading to riots and political instability in the past. The IMF's insistence on subsidy cuts from Indonesia's dictator Soeharto, even as that country's currency collapsed in 1998, sparked riots that drove the economy into a tailspin and Soeharto from power.
For Egypt's poor, quite understandably, bread is everything. And in one way or another, it looks likely to get more expensive.