New financial privileges secured for Egypt’s army officers

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has approved a law granting retired military officers new financial benefits. The law provides for an increase in their pensions by 15 per cent annually, for a period of seven years, which means extending the period for excluding army officers from submitting to the unified pension law. This is the most recent privilege that has been given to them.

Since taking office in 2014, al-Sisi has issued six presidential decisions to increase civilian pensions, at the rate of one each year. However, the rates of increase in these pensions was lower than those of army officers.

In August 2019, a unified pension law was issued that carried, according to commentators, many good provisions, such as setting a minimum insurance subscription of EGP 1,000, amending the method of calculating the pension, and annual percentages of the pension increase. The law was supposed to apply to all retirees, but the president excluded army officers from it and granted them a special status.

When comparing civil law with military law, we find that the annual percentage increases in the civil pensions law are linked to the rate of inflation, with a maximum increase of 15 per cent, which means that if the inflation rate is nine per cent (as the government expects in the next fiscal year), the pension of civilians will increase by only nine per cent.

By contrast, the military law stipulates that army officers are granted a 15 per cent increase in absolute terms, without linking them to the rate of inflation, which means that if the inflation rate is nine per cent, the retired civilian’s pension will increase by only nine per cent, but the retired military person’s pension will increase by 15 per cent. Obviously, this gives the military an added advantage.

The method of calculating pensions for military people is also different from that of civilians. The army officer’s pension is calculated at 80 per cent of his last wage, plus military allowances and bonuses. The ordinary citizen’s pension is calculated by his average wage during all his working years plus the average inflation rates during these years. This is an unfair method, because the employee usually starts with a low salary that increases over time, and when calculating the average wage with the average rate of inflation during these years, the percentage will be much lower than what a military officer gets.

Excluding military officers from applying the provisions of the unified pension law reflects a clear bias from the president. It seems as though he stresses that he rules the country in their name and with the power of their weapons, and therefore they must be distinguished from the rest of society. We do not see such treatment with other high risk groups, such as doctors who face death while fighting coronavirus.

Rather than distinguishing one group of the people from the rest, al-Sisi’s regime should treat all citizens on an equal footing, especially over pensions for elderly citizens who have health issues and need more money.