Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the Egyptians today that are still able to eat and drink despite rising prices, as he defended the big projects which he said create millions of jobs.

Egypt’s long-standing foreign currency shortage is at risk of worsening due to the loss of revenue from the Suez Canal, which this month prompted store closures and new restrictions on credit card withdrawals.

Sisi blamed the lack of foreign currency the ten-year dependence of Egypt of imports which he said required spending a billion dollars a month on staples such as wheat and vegetable oils and another billion dollars on fuel.

“We offer services to the Egyptian people in Egyptian pounds and we pay for them in dollars,” he said in remarks on the occasion of the celebration of National Police Day in Cairo.

“Are we not eating? We eat. Don’t we drink? We drink and everything works. Are things expensive and some are not affordable? So what;” Sisi said.

“They tell me that life is expensive, I tell you that even if it is expensive, we live. If we can withstand this, we will live, grow and overcome these problems.”

Egypt is trying to recover and expand a $3 billion program with the International Monetary Fund. But to achieve this it is under pressure to let its currency float and carry out structural reforms that include reducing the role of the military and the state to make room for the private sector.

The government faces a difficult timetable to repay a debt that has ballooned in recent years as Egypt has embarked on costly mega projects, including a new capital city being built east of Cairo.

“We told the economists that we need deep austerity measures in our economy and this is no secret,” Sisi said.

“And that we have to stop the big projects, and that economic view may be right, but to that I say: I employ 5-6 million people, tell me…how could we stop all this?”