CAIRO: Hundreds of pensioners protested in Cairo’s Attaba Square on Sunday demanding an increase in the pensions they receive every month and a solution to their problems.
The protest was organized by the Independent Union of Egyptian Pensioners, which threatened to hold more protests nationwide and call on the military council to interfere if the government did not respond to their demands.
The protesters are demanding a 30 percent increase in the pensions starting January and another 20 percent increase starting July. They are also calling for amending laws related to social security and health insurance, namely the pensions and insurance law drafted by the Ministry of Finance and passed by the parliament in 2010.
Pensioners said are demanding a minimum rate for monthly pensions that can help them “live with dignity.”
Minister of Social Solidarity Nagwa Khalil had announced a 10 percent increase in pensions in December 2011 effective January 2012.
This month however, Khalil said the increase will not be implemented before three months. She explained that the exact date will be determined based on the ability of the state budget to accommodate this financial burden.
Protesters rejected Khalil’s statements, claiming that there are LE 453 billion allocated to pensions, without providing further details.
Pensioners, who said that the current Finance Minister Momtaz Said pressured Khalil to retract her decision to increase pensions by 10 percent, criticized Khalil’s statements, vowing to force her to step down if the increase was not delivered.
“If she cannot keep her word then she must leave,” said Naguib Abdel Meguid, one of the protesters. “We need help, these rates are inhumane.”
Protesters said that throughout their lives they worked on developing Egypt through working in different sectors, saying their efforts remain unacknowledged.
“I worked at a hospital when there was barely any equipment. They said they wanted part-time workers instead of full-time so I had to retire. I receive LE 268 in pensions, I have three children and my husband was a driver in the tourism sector but he doesn’t work anymore,” Fakhria Mahmoud complained.
Protesters claimed that the current finance minister is adopting the same policies of his predecessor Youssef Boutros Ghali, with regards to the pensions and insurance law.
“All we are asking for is our rights; we are not asking for benefits from the government. I used to make LE 4,000 with bonuses, now I receive LE 900. It’s a huge drop in the living standard,” said Gamila Eissa.
Other protesters had more dire conditions, saying they receive between LE 86–300 a month.
“I used to work in the railway station until I suffered a chronic disease. A committee headed by one of former health minister Hatem El-Gabaly’s corrupt aides falsely stated that I am in good condition. They forced me to retire with a low pension rate,” said Mostafa Ibrahim.
Pensioners said that they will stage another protest next week, and if their demands are not met they will hold a sit-in in Tahrir Square.
The ministries of finance and social solidarity were not immediately available for comment.