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.


Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

The worshippers forced their way into the area ahead of Friday prayer. (Reuters)
Updated 23 February 2019
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Muslims pray in banned area of Al-Aqsa for first time since 2003

  • The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area

AMMAN: For the first time since 2003, Muslim worshippers broke an Israeli ban and offered Friday prayers in the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall, which is part of the Haram Al-Sharif/Al-Aqsa Mosque.

Hundreds of Palestinian worshippers entered the Bab Al-Rahmeh area inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City on Friday for the first time since the area was closed to Muslim worship by Israeli authorities.

The worshippers, led by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Sheikh Mohammad Hussein and other religious leaders, forced their way into the area ahead of the weekly Friday prayer, defying the Israeli ban.

The worshippers chanted religious and national slogans and mounted the flag of Palestine to show their delight at the reopening of the area, which has only been open during the past 16 years to Jewish fanatics during provocative visits to the Muslim holy place, the third holiest site in Islam, according to the official Palestinian news agency, Wafa.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the former mufti and now a member of the newly constituted Islamic Waqf Council in Jerusalem, delivered a short sermon in which he reiterated that “the Haram Al-Sharif is all 144 dunums of land, including the mosques, prayer halls, courtyard musuems and schools within it.” Sabri said that Muslims will not allow anyone to diminish Muslim rights in the entire mosque area.

The Friday prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh went off peacefully in part because of an Israeli decision late on Thursday not to make any further escalations, a reliable source in Jerusalem told Arab News.

Khaleel Assali, a member of the new council who participated in the prayer at Bab Al-Rahmeh, told Arab News that the mood was peaceful and upbeat. “It was a beautiful thing to be able to reclaim part of our religious site that we were barred from using for so many years.”

The deputy head of the PLO’s Fatah movement, Mahmoud Alloul, praised the unprecedented action by the popular movement in Jerusalem. 

In a statement published on the Wafa website, Alloul called on Palestinians to stay steadfast in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa and Bab Al-Rahmeh and to “continue to stand up to the occupiers and their repeated incursions in Al-Aqsa courtyards.”

Mohammad Ishtieh, a senior Fatah leader who is expected to be the next Palestinian prime minister, issued a statement saying that what happened in Jerusalem today proves beyond a shadow of doubt that all actions and decisions aimed at Judaization of Jerusalem have failed as a result of the steadfastness of our people in our eternal capital. Ishtieh praised the defenders of Jerusalem who screamed for justice and who again forced the Israeli occupiers to back down.

Mahdi Abdul Hadi, director of the Jerusalem-based Palestinian Academic Society for the Study of International Affairs (PASSIA) and a new member of the Jordanian-appointed Waqf Council, told Arab News that all parties participated and share this success. “Everyone participated and every party should get credit for this success. Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa unite us.”

The popular protests that led to the breakup of the 16-year-old Israeli ban began on Feb. 13 when the newly constituted empowered and expanded 18-member Waqf Council decided to hold a symbolic prayer at the barred Bab Al-Rahmeh site. The Israelis responded by placing heavy chains at the gate and making arrests. 

After four days of arrests, Israel allowed the removal of the chains but would not go as far as allowing Muslim worshippers to enter. On Wednesday the Waqf Council called on worshippers to pray at the Bab Al-Rahmeh site. All five daily prayers were held outside the barred prayer hall. A confrontation was expected Friday, but the insistence of the worshippers on reclaiming their site led to the Israelis backing down, Jerusalem sources told Arab News.