The government has announced plans to give shares in state-owned companies to the public free of charge in order to reassure citizens about privatisation and include them in economic reform.

It is still not clear which companies are involved but the government is expected to retain control of important industries such as pharmaceuticals, cement, iron and steel, aluminium, fertilisers, transport and tourism.

Egypt has sold shares worth billions of dollars in state-owned companies including banks, transport, and industrial firms in recent years in a privatisation drive that has contributed to strong economic growth. However, critics claim that this has only benefited foreign companies and that the privatisation process is often corrupt.

The new plans will need approval from both houses of parliament.