Diplomats and other representatives of Egypt overseas are to be exempted from public sector maximum wage restrictions, according to an official Egyptian government bulletin issued on Saturday.
Egypt’s interim cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, set the country’s maximum wage last November at 35 times the minimum wage of employees working in the public sector, with a ceiling of LE42,000 per month.
The decree, which comes into force this month, exempts “diplomatic, consular, and trade representatives” of Egypt abroad from the wage restraints “for the duration of their service overseas.”
The maximum wage has been an issue of contention since 2011 when the then-ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces decided to set a national maximum wage at 35 times the minimum wage of a low-level employee working for the same government body.
There has been public outcry in recent months after media reports of huge sums earned by high-ranking government officials, adding to the pressure on the fragile post-Morsi government to act.
"The decision is a response to popular demands, first and foremost," former minister of finance Samir Radwan, who questions its efficacy, told Ahram Online.
Social justice can only be truly achieved, in Radwan's view, with a restructuring of the tax system, so that taxpayers present a holistic statement of all their sources of income, which would enable authorities to place them in the correct brackets and tax them accordingly.
Saturday's decree also includes a provision exempting unspecified “institutions of extraordinary nature” to be designated by the prime minister for the wage limit.
A minimum wage of LE1,200 for public sector workers is also going into effect as of 22 January, benefitting some 4.8 million employees, including 500,000 temporary employees, according to the country’s Ministry of Finance.