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Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Sahar Nasr to head a merged Ministry of Investment of International Cooperation

We have a cabinet; El Garhy and Kabil keep their posts. The House of Representatives has approved a cabinet lineup with eight new faces and one already-serving minister taking on an expanded portfolio. We can confirm (with much relief) that the ministers of finance (including deputies), trade and industry, and electricity will remain in their posts. The biggest surprise from yesterday’s announcement was the merger of the ministries of International Cooperation and Investment to be headed by Sahar Nasr, who until Monday led the international cooperation portfolio. Nasr tells Youm7 that her first order of business will be picking up where former Investment Minister Dalia Khorshid left off and completing the much-anticipated Investment Act. Nasr has also picked up the one-stop-shop rhetoric, a policy long defended by Investment Ministry bureaucrats that has earned skepticism from investors, created conflict with other government bodies, and that appears to conflict with other pieces of legislation including the State Lands Act.

Former Investment Minister Dalia Khorshid had confirmed her exit earlier in the day after issuing a statement thanking her colleagues and saying she spared no effort serving her country.

As expected, the so-called ‘sovereign ministers’ of defense, foreign affairs, interior and justice have all kept their posts, and Planning Minister Ashraf Al Araby has left cabinet. New faces at the cabinet table include:

Ali El Moselhy is the new Supply and Domestic Trade Minister replacing Mohamed Ali El Sheikh. El Moselhy was most recently the head of the House Economics Committee and was Social Solidarity Minister and head of Egypt Post during the Mubarak era. In a surprising statement following the announcement of his appointment, El Moselhy was openly skeptical of the transition to cash subsidies, Youm7 reports. “If we couldn’t get supply subsidies to work right, how can we get cash subsidies working,” he said. The transition from commodity to cash subsidies for qualified beneficiaries has been one of the key planks of the Ismail government’s reform program. Word in the press is that outgoing Supply Minister Mohamed Ali El Sheikh is taking the fall for the unpopular move of purging welfare cheats from the subsidy rolls and raising the price of subsidized goods, suggesting that El Moselhy’s remarks may be geared as much for his former colleagues in the House of Representatives as anywhere else. We’ll be keeping a close eye on this issue going forward.

Abdel Moneim Al Banna is the new Agriculture and Land Reclamation Minister replacing Essam Fayed. Al Banna was the president of the state’s Agriculture Research Center and will be assisted by three new deputy ministers: Mohamed El Said (agricultural reclamation), Mona Hassanein (animal resources), and Safwat Hamad (services and follow up).

Khaled Abdel Ghaffar is the new Higher Education Minister replacing Ashraf El Shihy. Abdel Ghaffar, a dentist, was the Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research at Ain Shams University.

Tarek Shawki is the new Education Minister replacing El Helaly El Sherbiny. Shawki, the former dean of science and engineering at AUC, was the secretary-general of the Presidential Specialized Councils, which included four councils established in 2015 to advise the presidency on economic development; foreign policy and national security; community development; and education and scientific research. He previously served as director of the UNESCO Regional Bureau for Science in Arab States between 2008-2012. Shawki’s appointment gives us hope that the ministry will now be headed by someone who understands that desperately needed improvements in the quality of public education do not need to come at the expense of populist saber-rattling at international schools.

Hala El Said is the new Planning Minister replacing Ashraf El Araby. El Said was the dean of the Faculty of Economics and Political Sciences at Cairo University and is the former executive director of the Egyptian Banking Institute. Salah Abdel Rahman has been named El Said’s deputy minister for administrative reform.

Hisham Arafat is the new Transport Minister,replacing Galal Saeed. Arafat, who was the head of the Structural Engineering & Construction Management Department at Future University, tells Al Mal that he intends to meet with ministry officials once he’s sworn in to set a new game plan for the sector, with fresh priorities, goals, and strategies.

Omar Marwan Arafa is the new Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister replacing Magdy El Agaty. Arafa served as the former Assistant Justice Minister on forensics.

Hisham El Sherif is the new State Minister for Local Development replacing Ahmed Zaki Badr. El Sherif was at the time of his appointment the chairman of the Regional Information Technology & Software Engineering Center and founder of the Cabinet Information and Decision Support Centre.

The House of Representatives approved the new cabinet lineup smoothly and without a roll call vote with “only 20 to 30 members” (largely from the opposition 25-30 coalition) voting against, an MP told Al Borsa. A member of the Support Egypt Coalition said the pro-government MPs approved the new ministers despite concerns about the performance of the health and education sectors and will carefully evaluate the entire government based on its performance by the end of the fiscal year on 30 June, according to Al Shorouk.

The naming of Al Banna as agriculture minister was perhaps the most controversial appointment in a very non-controversial process, with several members of the House rising up in disdain alleging the minister had previously been the subject of corruption allegations. Leading the charge was none other than TMZ’s ambassador to Egypt — Rep. Moustafa Bakry, who announced that it was his mission to inform the public of Al Banna’s past.

To put an end to the avalanche of rumors surrounding the appointments, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said that 16 of 50 potential candidates had declined positions offered for a “variety of reasons” ranging from the magnitude of the task they would have taken on to personal obligations, according to Ahram Gate.

What’s next? President Abdel Fattah El Sisi must now sign off on the new government and set a time for the swearing-in ceremony, which could come as early as today.

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