Burkina Faso Boosts Salaries Amid Growing Unrest

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OUAGADOUGOU, Burkina Faso (AP) — Burkina Faso’s government announced Thursday it is lowering taxes for civil servants and increasing student loans amid growing unrest over the high cost of education and living in the landlocked West African country.

Under the new plan, the government is boosting student loans each month by about $50. Civil servants’ salaries are expected to go up by about 5 percent as a result of the tax changes.

The new measures were being taken to provide “an adequate response to the concerns of different groups,” according to a government statement Thursday.

The move appeared aimed at placating a growing sense of unrest in Burkina Faso, where the president has been in power since 1987. Earlier this year students in the capital led violent protests stemming from disputes over their university accommodation.

While some applauded the government’s new gesture, others said it was not enough.

“I figure that I’ll have $4 more (after) the reduction in taxes on my salary,” said Aboubakar Konsegre, who works at the Finance Ministry. “Maybe that could buy me a liter (0.25 gallon) of gas for the week. In any case, it’s minuscule.”

Burkina Faso, a deeply impoverished nation of some 17 million people, has battled a growing cost of living and is struggling to educate its youth.

Uprisings began in February 2011 when students protested following the death of a student in police custody. The president tried to stem the unrest by dissolving the government and removing the country’s security chiefs. Relations have remained tense since then, and in July scores of students in the capital set more than a dozen cars ablaze after failed negotiations with university officials over their housing situation.

The last few years have been rocky for Compaore, the country’s longtime leader who came to power after a coup in which the president was killed. Last month a former bodyguard was killed in an exchange of gunfire while trying to penetrate the grounds of the presidential palace. Compaore also survived a 2011 mutiny which led to hundreds of soldiers being prosecuted and removed from the army.

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