CAIRO: The military council is adamant on staying in power until June 30, Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzoury said Wednesday, as he slammed calls for civil disobedience.
Under increasing pressure to hand over power to civilians, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) announced that registration for presidential elections would start on March 10 instead of April, following the Shoura Council elections. El-Ganzoury’s announcement, however, affirmed the earlier timetable proposed by the military.
Some 11 universities and other political groups are promoting calls for civil disobedience starting Feb. 11 until the military rulers step down and hand power over to an elected civilian authority.
In a press conference Wednesday, El-Ganzoury slammed these calls, saying civil disobedience would bring the country down, encouraging people to start working to rebuild it instead.
He reiterated earlier statements that sectoral protests negatively affect the economy.
"How can the state’s budget heed to all of these demands when the [demonstrators] are hindering productivity with their constant protests," he said.
Nagi Rashad, labor activist, rejected the label of "sectoral protests," saying that the workers’ demands represent dire economic needs.
"The Jan. 25 revolution called for bread, freedom and social justice; the workers’ demands are the core of the revolution," Rashad told Daily News Egypt.
"Production has been spiraling downwards since 1996, years before the protests and the revolution started," he added.
Rashad had filed a complaint to the Prosecutor General against El-Ganzoury and Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi accusing them of negatively affecting production through their policies.
On the other hand, El-Ganzoury praised the achievements his government made in only two months since December in both security and economy, saying it was much more than previous governments achieved.
The Armed Forces announced late on Wednesday the deployment of its troops in the streets to help secure the streets, according to the official news agency.
On the other hand, the prime minister announced a number of reforms including increasing pensions by 10 percent with a minimum of LE 60.
Magda Kandil, executive director of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies speculated that this could be a measure to ease tensions and convince people to refrain from participating in an act of civil disobedience.
"In the past two months, El-Ganzoury has been calling for cutting costs and now suddenly the tone has changed to gain the people’s approval days before a state of civil disobedience begins," Kandil told DNE.
She added that the protesters had higher demands than increasing pensions, doubting that this measure would do much to appease people and prevent them from participating in an act of civil disobedience.
Rashad said that Saturday was expected to be more of a general strike than an act of civil disobedience, as many parties and sectors need to get on board in order to escalate matters to civil disobedience.
Last month, hundreds of pensioners protested in Cairo’s Attaba Square demanding a 30 percent increase in their monthly pensions and another 20 percent increase starting July.
Minister of Social Solidarity Nagwa Khalil had announced a 10 percent increase in pensions in December 2011 effective January 2012.
Khalil later said the increase would 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.
El-Ganzoury said that the increase in pensions would be effective starting January 2012.
He also criticized the stance of Arab countries, accusing them of turning their backs on Egypt after vowing to give them large sums of money in aid.
Kandil refused El-Ganzoury’s accusations saying that both Saudi Arabia and Qatar each gave Egypt $500 million in aid to help ease the deficit.
"Saudi Arabia and Qatar said that Egypt needed to have a set plan of projects in order to receive more aid from the two countries," she said.
El-Ganzoury said that "Arab and western countries have tied their assistance to Egypt to an agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF)."
Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Aboul Naga said that a national program for economic reform was approved by the Cabinet on Wednesday, and is to be proposed to the IMF and the International and African Development Bank to receive a total of $4.7 billion in aid.
A delegation would arrive Sunday from the World Bank to start talks with government experts.
Aboul Naga said that the program would be open to public debate to reach national consensus.
The IMF has said Egypt would have to line up substantial commitments from international donors before it would agree to any financial package. Economists estimate that Egypt needs about $10-12 billion in external funding over the next year and a half. –Additional reporting by Reuters.