On Egypt uprising's 2nd anniversary, social justice has yet to be achieved

On Egypt uprising's 2nd anniversary, social justice has yet to be achieved

Walk down any back alley in the Egyptian capital, or even along one of Cairo's main thoroughfares, and you're likely to see scenes of shocking poverty. If the miserable grey buildings that shelter millions of impoverished souls don't get to you, the scores of street children - tirelessly weaving between cars and Chinese-made motorbikes - will Al Ahramonline reported.

Steady growth in Egypt's poverty head-count ratio - from 16.7 per cent in 2000 to some 22 per cent in 2010 - was a major ingredient of the Tahrir Square uprising. It was not, however, the poorest segments of society that initiated the revolution that toppled the Mubarak regime almost two years ago, but rather Egyptian youth from the middle and upper classes.

"When I see the magnitude of misery that exists in our society, I can't help but feel ashamed of how lucky I am," 26-year-old engineer Alaa El-Banna, who participated in the revolution, told Ahram Online.

El-Banna works for a multinational consumer goods firm; he drives a sporty French car and spends more than LE100 every day on cigarettes and fast food. Yet he felt obliged to join the 18-day sit-in in Tahrir Square in early 2011 to demand the ouster of Mubarak, who he views as a symbol of the "rampant corruption" that has "impoverished millions of Egyptians."

The two years since the uprising, however, have not been accompanied by the basic improvements El-Banna had initially hoped for. In fact, the chronic economic problems plaguing Egypt appear to have only become worse.

Egypt's poverty rate jumped to 25 per cent in 2010/11 while unemployment levels have reached ten-year highs. The government will be forced to trim its hefty subsidies bill to curb the budget deficit while raising sales taxes on a range of goods and services.

What's more, Egypt's depreciating currency will likely prompt a surge in prices of basic foodstuffs and fuel - most of which is imported.

Under the pretext of 'realising revolutionary goals,' successive post-revolution cabinets have tried to enact policies aimed at easing Egypt's vast income disparities. But such initiatives have either not gone far enough or have been overshadowed by wider economic realities.

One example of this was the new national minimum wage intended to lift working-class Egyptians out of poverty. Public servants were granted a monthly minimum wage of LE700 (roughly $107), cut down from an earlier proposed monthly wage of LE1,200.

The government simply could not afford more, since public wages alone account for more than a quarter of Egypt's state budget.

LE700, which translates into a paltry LE23 daily, shrinks before the ever increasing cost of everyday necessities. The amount is not enough to allow a family of four to eat nutritious food all month long, given that meat - which more and more Egyptians are doing without - now costs an average of LE50 per kilo.

The inadequacy of Egypt's new minimum wage structure is probably why labour actions continue to escalate in workplaces across the country.

Private-sector workers, meanwhile, were the beneficiaries of a similar arrangement at the end of 2011, yet the lack of a clear enforcement strategy by the government - along with continued high unemployment rates - prevent average wages from growing altogether.

Moreover, Egypt's informal workers, who make up an estimated 75 per cent of total national private-sector employment, did not benefit from the new wage rates at all.

"All these debates on the minimum wage will not help improve Egyptians' living conditions," Dorothea Schmidt, senior employment expert at the International Labour Organisation, told Ahram Online in 2011.

Taxation, another tool used by governments to promote financial equality, has not been utilised much by the government over the past two years.

In 2011, the top income-tax bracket was increased to 25 per cent - from a previous 20 per cent- for annual incomes above LE10 million. And last December, President Mohamed Morsi altered the highest tax bracket so that annual incomes above LE1 million (instead of LE10 million) would be taxed at a 25 per cent rate.

Morsi also announced new taxes on real estate, corporate mergers and acquisitions, and Initial Public Offerings (IPOs).

This latest bundle of tax hikes, however, also raised levies on consumer goods, some of which - such as cooking oil - are considered essential to ordinary Egyptians. Morsi quickly - and unofficially - suspended the tax hikes to avoid a popular backlash.

Last December's decisions reflect the tight spot that the government finds itself in. While it has to raise taxes to finance its ballooning public deficit, it cannot simply raise income taxes since this would take a heavy toll on Egypt's weak investment environment.

The government is therefore resorting to more regressive taxation schemes, such as sales taxes. But this, too, promises to put additional burdens on an already struggling public.

It appears that revolutionary demands for 'social justice' will likely have to be put on hold until the government sorts out its wider fiscal dilemmas.

Volumes of agricultural products export in Turkmenistan’s Lebap region revealed
Volumes of agricultural products export in Turkmenistan’s Lebap region revealed
Azerbaijan's export of plastics over Jan. 2021 shows substantial growth
Azerbaijan's export of plastics over Jan. 2021 shows substantial growth
Kazakhstan boosts mutual trade with Germany amid COVID-19
Kazakhstan boosts mutual trade with Germany amid COVID-19
Loading Bars
Saipem sees decrease in revenues due to slowdown of projects
Barclays lifts 2021 oil price outlook on tighter U.S. supply view
Azerbaijani MFA comments on statements by Luxembourg's FM
Khojaly genocide - heaviest crime of last century, says Turkish Parliament's chairman
Turkey records more revenue from Jan.2021 car exports to France
Uzbekistan eyes purchasing helicopters from Airbus
Turkey always next to Azerbaijan - speaker of Turkish Parliament
Volumes of agricultural products export in Turkmenistan’s Lebap region revealed
Annual profit margin of Georgian banks increases
Azerbaijan's export of plastics over Jan. 2021 shows substantial growth
Iranian parliament shares grief of relatives of victims of Khojaly tragedy
Upgrading of Internet equipment in Azerbaijan's Khachmaz district continues - Ministry
Uzbekistan to fund introduction of drip irrigation technology for cotton growing
Europe’s gas trade to decline to 450 bcm by 2050
Kazakh gas producing company opens tender to buy spares for wells repair
Turkmenistan to send cargo flight to Turkey
Kazakhstan boosts mutual trade with Germany amid COVID-19
Ukrainian companies eye creating logistics center in Turkmenistan’s seaport
Chip shortage leads Japan automakers to post 4.5% slump in January global output
Georgia sees decrease in COVID-19 cases
Direct impacts of COVID-19 on gas market to be evident through to 2030
Baku Higher Oil School, Stockholm University to start training cybersecurity specialists
Aston Martin expects better 2021 sales after deep losses
Kazakhstan's expenses for importing Turkey-made steel grow in Jan.2021
IGB can be extended to eastern, northeastern Europe
Iranian president inaugurates Abyek-Varamin Highway
Azerbaijan shares footage from Gubadly district's Yusifbayli village (VIDEO)
Indian citizen Kaushik Barua conferred with Royal Order in Cambodia
India set to manufacture containers to boost exports
GUAM commemorates Azerbaijan's Khojaly Genocide
Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan preparing for demarcation of state borders
World's largest cricket stadium renamed as Narendra Modi Stadium
Ukraine receives first Covid-19 vaccine doses
UAE establishes executive office to combat money laundering, terror financing
Reconstruction Work Of 66th School Under Indian Aid Begins In Nepal's Dakshinkali
Senior Officials Of India, France, Australia Discuss Further Cooperation In Indo-Pacific
Gold price in Azerbaijan decreases
Uzbekistan reveals COVID-19 data for Feb. 25
ERIELL int’l oilfield services group working on increasing hydrocarbon production in Uzbekistan
Georgian Crystal's refinancing plan carries elevated execution risk
Turkey issues data on ships received at Kocaeli port during Jan. 2021
Azerbaijani oil prices continue to grow
Azerbaijani currency rates for Feb. 25
Iran's Energy Exchange announces products to be on sale on February 27
Pakistan announces opening of flights to Azerbaijan
Iran's Minister of Tourism explains health protocols in coming Nowruz trips
N. Macedonia’s ICT sector may be attractive for Azerbaijani investors – minister
Another Italian municipality officially condemns Khojaly genocide against Azerbaijani civilians
Iran's Rouhani asks US to pave way for talks
Iran cooperates with Germany, Afghanistan to develop renewable energy sector
Iranian gov't, Expediency Council hold another meeting on FATF bills
N. Macedonia names energy, tourism most productive sectors for co-op with Azerbaijan
N.Macedonia, Azerbaijan negotiating on trade agreement
Oil prices hit 13-month highs on tighter supplies, Fed assurance on low rates
Iran and US negotiate only within JCPOA framework
Australian media reforms pass parliament after last-ditch changes
Decrease in bank lending observed in Baku and Azerbaijani districts
Appeals to consulting organizations in Azerbaijan growing dynamically - Azecoconsulting
Azerbaijan Industrial Corporation aiming to restructure portfolio
China becomes Uzbekistan’s main foreign trade partner
Azerbaijan's Central Bank publishes latest data on population's bank deposits
Azerbaijan discloses share of household loans in total lending
Azerbaijani State Migration Service opens tender to buy air transport services
Kazakhstan to reduce VAT for new manufacturing companies
New Turkish ambassadors to Washington, Tokyo officially appointed
Municipal transport to operate on weekends in Georgia
Tariffs on Eurasia trades to go zero: Iranian Official
Number of COVID-19 cases in Kazakhstan surpasses 210,000
Biden to press for $37 billion to boost chip manufacturing amid shortfall
Participation of Azerbaijani SMEs in public procurement to be encouraged
U.S. report on Khashoggi death expected to single out Saudi crown prince
Egypt plans to order 10 mln Sputnik V doses from Russia
Kazakhstan, Poland trade decreases amid COVID-19
Germany grants special approval for first COVID-19 self-test kits
Ford CEO calls on U.S. government to support EV batteries, charging
Swiss logistics giant to partner with Chinese company in vaccine storage and distribution
Japan's cabinet green-lights bill to ratify RCEP trade deal
Kazakhstan increases imports of Sweden-made goods
Kazakh Karachaganak Petroleum Operating paying particular focus to "green" technologies
Kazakhstan's Kcell mobile telecom services provider to de-list its GDRs
Azerbaijan - leader among neighboring countries for index of sustainable development goals
Israel's hi-tech services exports up 19 pct in 2020
Conditions for Int’l cooperation changing - Rouhani
Kazakh airlines eye boosting jet fuel imports
Uzbekistan notes decrease in mining production
COVID-19 greatly affects cargo transportation by vehicles in Azerbaijan's transportation sector
Head of Georgian Governmental Administration quits
Turkey registers more than 9 500 new coronavirus cases
Johnson & Johnson's one-dose vaccine closes in on U.S. approval
Pashinyan shows anti-Russia stance, denigrates 'Iskander' missile fired on Azerbaijan
Azerbaijani FM, European commissioner for Neighborhood and Enlargement discuss situation in region
Azerbaijani FM meets Ukrainian deputy FM (PHOTO)
Visitors show great interest in Azerbaijani products at Gulfood 2021 exhibition (PHOTO)
Azerbaijan discloses amount of investments in economy of Turkic-speaking states
Assistant to Azerbaijani president meets with Ukrainian deputy minister for foreign affairs (PHOTO)
Japan eyes to support development of Georgian agrarian potential
Airlines expanding their activities in Georgia
Georgia reports three cases of UK coronavirus strain
Azerbaijan talks state-supported domestic SME market researches for 2020
Iran's Khatam Al-Anbia Headquarters to begin second phase of Chabahar port development project
All news