Egypt Table of Contents
Between 1981 and 1989, commander in chief Abu Ghazala established his popularity with the armed forces by substantially improving the living conditions of military careerists. The cabinet approved periodic pay increases, but salaries were not as high as in the private sector. Still, the combination of salaries and benefits provided officers with a comfortable living. As of 1989, it was less common for officers to hold second jobs. Many retired officers, however, were employed in the state-owned defense production sector. Officers' special privileges included the opportunity to purchase cars at reduced prices, access to superior health care and hospitals, visits to specially designated resort areas, and club memberships. Officers shopped at clean, well-stocked commissaries that carried duty-free or subsidized foods, which were often unavailable on the local market. Children of career personnel received preferential treatment when they applied for admission to institutions of higher learning. Under Abu Ghazala, ordinary soldiers received a narrower range of benefits, but their housing, rations, and uniforms improved. Soldiers seemed well-fed and neatly turned out. NCOs earned salaries that were high enough for them to afford adequate accommodations for their families. Draftees' living conditions remained far less favorable. Their monthly earnings amounted to less than US$10 in the late 1980s.
To attract people to the uniformed services, the military began offering recruits comfortable apartments in new "military cities." Most of these cities were located in the desert just outside Cairo and other major cities and near the Suez area, where there was a high concentration of military installations. As of 1986, the military had built thirteen of these cities and was constructing another ten. The largest of these was Nasser City near Heliopolis, where an estimated 250,000 people lived in 1986. Other military cities were designed to accommodate as many as 150,000 residents, including troops in new barracks. Each city generally included a large number of apartment blocks, as well as primary schools, high schools, nurseries, mosques, supermarkets, social clubs, banks, a water purification system, and solar heating.
The military raised some of the capital needed to erect the military cities from the sale of valuable land it owned in the center of Cairo. With subsidized prices and favorable loan terms, career military personnel could typically buy an apartment for ŁE12,000 as of 1986 (for value of the Egyptian pound, see Glossary), with down payments ranging from ŁE1,000 to ŁE3,000 amortized over thirty years. Some officers profited by subletting their apartments to civilians. In addition, land was made available within the military cities for construction of civilian apartment blocks. As of 1986, construction in military cities accounted for 5 percent of all Egyptian residential construction.
Data as of December 1990