Egypt’s embattled regime announced on Monday a 15 percent increase in salaries and pensions in the latest attempt to defuse popular anger amid protests demanding President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.
The cabinet decision follows earlier promises to investigate election fraud and official corruption, which have done little to persuade the tens of thousands occupying downtown’s Tahrir Square to end their two-week long protest.
State TV also announced that the family of a detained Google Inc. marketing manager who helped organise the anti-Mubarak demonstrations, “has been notified that he will be released this evening”. Wael Ghonim was one of the most prominent youth organisers of the protests and was seized by security agents on January 28.
Newly appointed Finance Minister Samir Radwan says some 6.5 billion Egyptian pounds ($960 million) will be allocated to cover the increases, which will take effect in April for the six million people on public pay rolls.
In the past, public sector employees have been a pillar of support for the regime, but in recent years as prices have soared, their salaries have stagnated in value forcing the government to periodically announce raises to quell dissatisfaction.
Following widespread labour unrest in public sector factories in 2008, Mr. Mubarak announced a 30 percent increase in prices that appeared to temporarily blunt public anger.
After the two weeks of instability that has pushed the Arab world’s most populous nation to the edge of anarchy, the crisis now appears to be settling into kind of stalemate, with the government offering minor concessions that dodge the protesters’ central demand - Mr. Mubarak’s departure.
The regime appears confident in its ability for the moment to ride out the unprecedented storm of unrest, and maintain its grip on power, at least until September elections.