Egypt president defends austerity measures

In this Sunday, June 10, 2018 photo, provided by Egypt's state news agency, MENA, Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, right, shakes hands with E

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's President Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi has defended his government's latest austerity measures aimed at rebuilding the country's ailing economy, amid a wave of arrests since his re-election.

The government has raised the price of electricity and piped drinking water as part of an economic reform program designed to qualify for a three-year $12 billion bailout loan from the International Monetary Fund, which Egypt secured in 2016.

El-Sissi said late Tuesday in televised comments that the government spends a total subsidy bill of 330 billion Egyptian pounds, $18.6 billion, annually.

He said: "We have to pay the price together."

The tough austerity measures have hit poor and middle-class Egyptians especially hard.

Egypt has intensified its crackdown on dissent since el-Sissi's re-election in the March vote in which he faced no serious challengers.