Echoes in the press

Civil society activists from five Arab countries are urging the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to ease pressure on their governments to reduce food and fuel subsidies until stronger social-protection schemes and other basic reforms are implemented.

In a new report, the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND) and the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR) argue that social safety nets in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen are inadequate – or, in some cases, too corrupt — to compensate for the loss of critical subsidies on which the poor and even the middle class depend.

Popular story has it that a custom officer was obsessed with finding out what the old man was hiding, as he crossed the border every day with a donkey loaded with hay. Never able to discover anything unusual in the forage, one day he announces:

- I have just retired and I have no authority any more, but I will not die in peace if I do not get to know what your business really is.

- It's easy, -replies the old man- I smuggle donkeys.

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