Egyptian Soldier in Giza
Photo: AP

Low wages: No wonder Islam won

Lowly army salaries explain Egypt's Islamist rise; junior officers make only $8 a month

With Egypt stocks jumping following Mohammed Morsi's elections victory, it is clear that Egypt is in euphoria. Yet when the initial excitement fades, the power struggle between Islamists and the country's military is expected to heat up again. 


However, according to estimates, the middle and lower ranks of the Egyptian military are already dominated by Islamists and revolution supporters. Indeed, these soldiers have every reason to feel economic frustration.


Last year, 500 officers and soldiers refused to participate in a drill to protest their working conditions. Similar claims were heard in Tahrir square by soldiers who debated those arguing that the army is the wealthiest institution in Egypt, dominating at least one-third of the economy. 


The Egyptian army is an important employer. Most of its soldiers are in fact employees of various companies owned by the military. Their salaries are minute, reaching $15 a month including benefits. Senior officers, on the other hand, boast an ostentatious lifestyle.



The Muslim Brotherhood initiated a discussion on lowly soldiers' salaries even before the parliament was dissolved two weeks ago. According to their claims, officers ranked second lieutenant earn abut $8 a month, lieutenants earn $8.5, and lieutenant colonels can earn as much as $16 a month.


What does army hide?

The Muslim Brotherhood offered to boost soldiers' salaries four-fold immediately, but the debate was halted. Yet for the army, the very fact that this subject was brought to parliament constitutes a direct challenge for senior officers in the military's General Staff. 

צבא מצרים בכיכר תחריר (צילום: רויטרס)

Soldiers in Tahrir Square (Photo: Reuters)


Except for the $1.3 billion of American aid, the military keeps its financial affairs concealed as if they were a national secret. Responding to growing pressure by the Muslim Brotherhood since the revolution started in 2011, the military revealed some of it finances, but in a very selective manner.


For example, the army announced that it has transferred $2 billion to support the country's shrinking foreign currency reserves. At the same time, Mahmoud Nasr, Tantawi's assistant on financial affairs, declared that "the army will not allow anyone to interfere with its commercial projects. This issue pertains to national security."


The military's insistence not to reveal its financial state has given rise to various speculations. According to estimates, the military's assets are worth $40-70 billion, and include among other things a mineral water production factory, oil companies and even hotels.


Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research  (Middle East) Ltd.


פרסום ראשון: 06.28.12, 13:10
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