Pay raise not enough for Egypt’s angry civil servants

Price hikes of essential commodities leave common Egyptians struggling to make ends meet. Reuters
Updated 22 June 2018
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Pay raise not enough for Egypt’s angry civil servants

  • The recent austerity measures are part of an economic reform program designed to meet the terms of a three-year $12 billion loan Egypt secured from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in late 2016
  • Gasoline prices have risen by an average of about 34 percent

CAIRO: Egyptian civil servants have warned the government that increases in their salaries will not help them avoid the devastating impact of tough new austerity measures.
Earlier this month the national Parliament approved a draft law giving state employees a 7 percent raise in their basic earnings and an additional irregular bonus of 10 percent.
But while civil servants welcomed the increases, they told Arab News that huge rises in the prices of essential commodities including fuel, electricity, piped drinking water and public transport will still leave them struggling to make ends meet.
One 45-year-old who works at a government notary office in Cairo and requested anonymity said, “It’s better than nothing but definitely still not enough. It can help alleviate the effects of just one item out of the many items of which the state has decided to increase the cost.
“For example, I can now bear the additional costs of drinking water but what about electricity, what about transportation, what about everything else?”
The recent austerity measures are part of an economic reform program designed to meet the terms of a three-year $12 billion loan Egypt secured from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in late 2016.
In recent weeks, the authorities have increased metro fares by up to 250 percent and the price of cooking gas from 60 Egyptian pounds to 100 Egyptian pounds ($3.3 to $5.6) per cylinder. The cost of piped drinking water has risen by up to 45 percent and electricity by 26 percent. Gasoline prices have risen by an average of about 34 percent.
Abdel-Rahman, a government employee who refused to give his full name, told Arab news: “I earn 1,200 pounds and I have three children. The salary increases they usually announce every year barely make any difference.
“My salary needs to be at least doubled if I’m to survive such dire economic conditions. Life has become too hard and the few pounds they throw at us every year are almost useless.”
Egypt is not the only Middle Eastern country to face a public backlash over a tough austerity program. In January, demonstrations erupted across Tunisia after the IMF told the government there that it needed to take “urgent action” to reduce its deficit.
Earlier this month protesters in Jordan forced the Prime Minister Hani Mulki to resign and King Abdullah to roll back a fuel-price increase in an attempt to quell some of the worst civil unrest the country has seen in years.


Buses arrive to ferry Syria rebels out of zone near Golan

Updated 2 min 35 sec ago
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Buses arrive to ferry Syria rebels out of zone near Golan

  • The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province
  • Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighboring buffer zone with the Israeli-occupied Golan

BEIRUT: Buses were gathering on Friday in a southwestern sliver of Syria near the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights to transfer rebel fighters and civilians to opposition territory further north, a monitor said.
The transfers come under a surrender deal agreed this week between Russia and Syrian rebels in Quneitra province that will see the sensitive zone fall back under state control.
Rebels will hand over territory they control in Quneitra and the neighboring buffer zone with the Israeli-occupied Golan, a war monitor and a rebel source told AFP.
The deal included safe passage to northern Syria for any hard-liners who refuse to live under government control, and buses began entering the area Friday to carry out the transfers, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
“The buses reached government-controlled territory in Quneitra on Thursday, and today they began crossing into opposition areas for the evacuation,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.
He said it remained unclear how many fighters and civilians would ultimately be evacuated, but that the buses would likely be picking up people from multiple locations in Quneitra and the adjacent buffer.
A rebel source told AFP that the evacuations were expected to begin around mid-morning on Friday.
Quneitra is a thin, crescent-shaped province wedged between the buffer to the west and the Syrian province of Daraa to its east.
One month ago, Syria’s regime launched an operation to retake rebel areas in Daraa and Quneitra, using military force and surrender deals brokered by its Russian ally.
Fighting forced several hundred thousand people to flee, and as many as 140,000 remain displaced in Quneitra, according to the United Nations.
The UN’s humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) warned they are inaccessible to aid organizations based around an hour away in Damascus because of a lack of approvals.
Both Israel and Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, have kept their borders closed to the displaced.
Israel seized 1,200 square kilometers (460 square miles) of the Golan from Syria in 1967 and later annexed it, in a move never recognized internationally.