Egypt's new-old cabinet lures strong critics

By bne IntelliNews March 3, 2014

Egypt’s sixth cabinet since the January 2011 revolt against the regime of former President Hosni Mubarak is being portrayed by pro-democracy critics as a creeping attempt by statists to turn the clock backward. Indeed, former Housing Minister and now Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb was an official in the now-dissolved formerly ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) while he was heading state-owned construction giant Arab contractors.

His Defense Minister, Abdel Fatah El Sisi, was head of Military Intelligence prior to Mubarak’s resignation from office. Minister of Transport, Ibrahim El-Demeiri, served in the same post between 1999 and 2002. Adel Labib, Minister of Local and Administrative Development, served as a governor of several governorates during Mubarak and Morsi's rule and under the military council. Minister of Information, Doreya Sharaf El-Din was a member of the women’s committee of NDP as well as being member of the all powerful policies committee.

Although, the aforementioned cabinet members were all present in the outgoing cabinet headed by liberal political Hazem El-Beblawi, yet, the weak representation of liberals and leftist as well as the total absence of Islamists that is most striking about the new cabinet. Furthermore, for the first time since the January 2011 uprising, the cabinet includes a private sector businessperson such as Minister of Electricity, Mohamed Shaker, whose consultancy and engineering firm Shaker Group has extensive dealing with public sector electricity projects.

The cabinet’s economic team also saw a significant restructuring with the consolidation of Ministry of Investment with the Ministry of Trade and Industry under one roof to be renamed Ministry of Industry, Foreign Trade and Investment. The new ministry, which will be headed by Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, a former businessman, tourism minister and industry and trade minister, apart from day-to-day business will be responsible for the mammoth task of restructuring chronically troublesome public sector companies such those involved in spinning and weaving as well as iron and steel production.

Also, ministries of planning and foreign cooperation have been merged under the long serving Ashraf El-Arabi. He has been instrumental in Egypt’s long-stalled loan negotiations with the IMF for a Standby Agreement. Similarly, the incoming finance minister, Hani Qadri Demian, was a key Egyptian negotiator with the IMF as well as holding several top level jobs within the ministry under the powerful Mubarak era minister Youssef Boutros Ghali.

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