Egypt's new ministers face multiple demands

A street vendor waits for customers in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Jobs and food price increases top the list of challenges facing the country's new ministers. [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

A street vendor waits for customers in Cairo's Tahrir Square. Jobs and food price increases top the list of challenges facing the country's new ministers. [Mahmud Hams/AFP]

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From a cafe in the Ahram Gardens neighbourhood of Giza, Ashraf Mahmoud followed the news of Egypt's cabinet reshuffle closely, and said he hoped the new ministers would take action to address the "constant increase of prices".

Mahmoud, like millions of workers in the country's construction sector, does not receive a fixed monthly income for his labour, relying instead on daily wages.

"God may grant us work today, and tomorrow there may not be anything to do," he said. "Prices are going up every day. Work is not guaranteed and we do not know what the solution is".

Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil announced a cabinet reshuffle on Tuesday (May 7th) which affects nine ministries; Justice, Finance, Parliamentary Affairs, Antiquities, Agriculture, Planning and International Co-operation, Petroleum, Culture and Investment.

The new ministers include at least two members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Some of the most prominent new appointments are Fayyad Abdel Moneim Hassanein, who took over the Ministry of Finance from El-Morsi Hegazy. Hatem Bijato, vice president of the Supreme Constitutional Court and a member of the presidential electoral committee, has been appointed Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs. Ahmed Mohammed Suleiman has been appointed as Minister of Justice, replacing Ahmed Makki who resigned last month.

Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) senior member Amr Darrag was chosen to be the Minister of Planning and International Co-operation, replacing Ashraf al-Arabi; and Sharif Hadara was named Minister of Petroleum, succeeding Osama Kamal. Yahya Hamed, also an FJP member, has replaced Osama Saleh in the Ministry of Investment.

Following the cabinet reshuffle, the opposition, led by the National Salvation Front, demanded that the president select a national reconciliation government and conduct comprehensive ministerial reform.

"The cabinet reshuffle has not added anything new," said National Salvation Front leader Amr Moussa. "There has to be a national unity government with high credentials that people can trust."

Move targets economy-related ministries

Political analyst Abdullah Hilmi said the cabinet reshuffle targeted economy-related ministries such as Finance, Petroleum, Planning and International Co-operation and Investment in an attempt to address urgent economic problems.

"The government needs to achieve progress in three key areas as soon as possible," he told Al-Shorfa. "The first is bringing negotiations with the International Monetary Fund to a close; ending the diesel and fuel shortages; and finally putting an end to price increases of basic goods as a result of depreciation in the value of the Egyptian pound."

The opposition and the rest of the Islamist parties might object to the new amendments, Hilmi said, "but everyone knows that the goal is not national reconciliation but rather to save the country from the current financial crisis".

FJP chairman Saad al-Katatni commented on his Facebook page that "the party understands the obstacles in the way of creating governments during transitional periods and that they might not be able to meet all aspirations".

Al-Katatni called on all parties and political forces to take part in "rebuilding the country and confronting and crossing the transitional period".

Jobs and price stability a primary concern

Issues of paramount concern to Egyptians focused on maintaining security on the streets, curbing price rises and providing job opportunities for millions of unemployed youths.

Sumaya Mahrous, a 50-year-old housewife, said her son has been job hunting for more than a year, as the foreign investor who owned the garment factory where he worked shut down the plant and left the country due to political and economic tensions.

"We have to find alternatives to investors who have fled the country," she said. "Our children have lost their jobs and, with that, their future".

Political and security stability will not happen, Mahrous said, "without overcoming the unemployment crisis as soon as possible".

Ahmed Kamal, a 36-year-old government employee, said the price of basic goods is continuing to rise and there are no measures in place to confront it.

"We hope the new government will come up with something new regarding high prices and low salaries because our situation as citizens has become quite critical," he said.

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    سعيد حساسين

    2013-5-17

    I personally refuse to confront the army again, as it’s the strongest institution to confront the tyrants and I won’t participate in their collapse. Our enemy is waiting any unplanned steps in order to destroy the army. The prophet described Egypt’s army as the best soldiers in the land, and they’re the protectors of the country and we suffered a lot from the chaos caused by the collapse of the Police, so how about the army. We were helping the traitors in destroying our country, so wake up people and protect your institutions before it’s too late.

  • Mohamed El-Azzazi

    2013-5-9

    Our case in Egypt is not in the bread, but in the freedom, which was trampled underfoot by the religious fascism.