Sisi cracks whip on new govt

June 18, 2014 - 4:07:46 am
Ibrahim Mahlab (left) takes oath as Prime Minister in front of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi in Cairo yesterday.

CAIRO: An Egyptian cabinet led by Ibrahim Mahlab was sworn in yesterday, with most positions from the previous military-installed government retained but the foreign minister replaced and an investment minister appointed.

President Abdel Fattah Al Sisi ordered a military-style regime of early morning starts for ministers as he swore in the new government, which hopes to revive an economy plagued by sluggish growth and recent political turmoil.

After summoning Prime Minister Mahlab’s cabinet to the presidential palace to take the oath of office at 7 am, the former army chief promptly made clear that ministers should get used to the new timetable.

“Every minister will be at his desk by seven,” Mahlab told journalists after the government held its first meeting with Sisi, a marathon seven-hour session.

Sisi, who led last year’s ouster by the army of Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, had tasked Mahlab with forming a new cabinet after his inauguration on June 8.

The new 34-member cabinet has 13 new ministers including Sameh Shoukri, a former ambassador to Washington, as the foreign minister.

He replaces Nabil Fahmy, who leaves the role despite having made a high-profile visit to the United States in April.

“The president must have had a say in choosing the new foreign minister as usually he chooses ministers of interior, foreign, defence and justice,” said Mustapha Kamel Al Sayyid, political science professor at Cairo University.

The cabinet retains Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim, who has overseen a massive police crackdown on Mursi’s supporters that has left 1,400 people dead and seen more than 15,000 jailed.

General Sedki Sobhi, who is the army chief, also stays on as defence minister.

The post of investment minister has been created in an apparent attempt to bolster an economy roiled by turmoil since the 2011 popular uprising that forced out long-time autocratic president Hosni Mubarak.

It was filled by Ashraf Salman, a US-educated investment banker and co-founder and co-CEO of Cairo Financial Holding, an Egyptian asset management, corporate finance and investment banking firm. He previously held a senior position at Arab African International Bank-Egypt and has worked on privatisation policies, according to the Cairo Financial Holding website.

The creation of a separate investment ministry reverses a decision earlier this year to merge the ministry with that of industry and trade.

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