Nutrition and economic development: Exploring Egypt’s exceptionalism and the role of food subsidies
This book (PDF) by IFPRI examines the two nutritional challenges which Egypt faces in depth and their relationship to public policy. The first challenge is the “growth-nutrition disconnect.” High economic growth has not been accompanied by reduction in chronic child malnutrition. Instead, the prevalence of child stunting increased during this decade—an atypical trend for a country outside wartime. The second challenge is the simultaneous presence of chronic undernutrition and overnutrition. This “double burden of malnutrition” exists not only at the national level but also within families and even individual children. Both challenges are exceptionally pronounced in Egypt compared to other developing countries. The authors examine four key drivers of Egypt’s two nutritional challenges. These, working in combination, are (1) the nutrition transition, (2) economic crises and rising poverty, (3) insufficient nutrition-sensitive investment, and (4) the food subsidy system. Their main hypothesis is that Egypt’s large food subsidy system (as in place until May 2014) has been ineffective in reducing child and maternal undernutrition. In fact, this system may have contributed to sustaining and even aggravating both nutritional challenges. The findings of this book consistently suggest that—in addition to the economic rationale for reforming the Egyptian food subsidy system—there are strong reasons to reform food subsidies due to nutrition and public health concerns. Therefore, future food subsidy reform steps should consider nutritional implications from the onset.