Civil servants across the country staged a two-hour work stoppage Tuesday following a call for a strike to pressure the Cabinet to implement an approved wage increase. Participants in the strike included employees at the Finance and Social Affairs ministries in Beirut, the Serail in Sidon and various municipal service centers in Nabatieh, south Lebanon, as well as public sector workers in Baalbek, Zahle, and Hermel, east Lebanon. The employees stopped working from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. Those on strike in Nabatieh demanded retroactive payment for a period extending back to Feb. 1, 2012. In January, the Cabinet granted both private sector employees and civil servants a monthly wage increase ranging from LL175,000 for those earning the minimum monthly wage to LL299,000 for those earning above LL1.5 million. Civil servants have yet to benefit from the wage hike. The delay has been attributed to the Cabinet’s failure to approve the 2012 budget and its inability to activate spending even for issues already agreed upon. However, the Cabinet overcame its spending crisis earlier this month when it approved advance payments and Treasury loans worth over LL10 trillion ($6.7 billion) to cover public administration expenses for 2012. Parliament is expected to pass the Cabinet’s proposal into law next week. If Parliament fails to pass the Cabinet’s proposal for Treasury loans, President Michel Sleiman has said he would approve the loans in a decree along with the disputed LL8.9 trillion in extra-budgetary spending by Prime Minister Najib Mikati’s Cabinet. Finance Minister Mohammad Safadi estimated earlier that the new salary increase for the public sector would cost the Treasury more than $666 million a year. Analysts say that even if the government managed to secure the salary increase for the public sector employees this year there is no guarantee that it can do so in 2013 or the coming years if a real budget is not approved soon. They add that the government can not resort to extra budgetary spending every year, stressing that the authorities should sooner or later submit and endorse a budget. The number of army soldiers, security personnel and public civil servants on the government payroll is more than 200,000. Nearly 35 percent of government spending goes to salaries of public employees.