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Egypt: PM Sherif Ismail expected to name new cabinet

Ismail, 60. is a mechanical engineer by training and recently returned from medical leave [Reuters]

Date of publication: 14 September, 2015

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A new cabinet will be named “within hours” by Egypt's PM designate on Monday following the resignation of the entire government last week amid growing anger at corruption.

Egypt’s interim prime minister Sherif Ismail will announce a new cabinet on Monday without any “dramatic changes” after he meets with prospective candidates, local media has reported.

The posts which will be affected by the reshuffle are the petroleum, education, agriculture, antiquities and manpower ministries, according to the state-run daily al-Ahram.

     The cabinet reshuffle will just be change of faces not policies and will have a negative impact on the government 
- Abd al-Nasser Youssef

A source told al-Araby al-Jadeed’s Arabic service that ministers of justice, religious endowments, higher education, health, industry and culture will also be replaced in new cabinet.

Ismail has so far refused to speculate on who will join the new government, “We are still discussing and are committed to [forming a government] by the president’s deadline this weekend,” he told al-Masry al-Youm on Sunday.

“The first issues we will focus on improving are health, education, regulating [commodity] prices and rubbish,” the interim prime minister said.

“We will also focus on carrying out national projects on previously-agreed timelines, closing the budget deficit and addressing the shortage of foreign exchange,” he added.

On Saturday, President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi appointed Ismail to form a new government after he accepted the resignation of former Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and his cabinet.

The government suffered a major blow when Agriculture Minister Salah al-Din Helal was arrested last week after tendering his resignation amid an investigation into allegations that he and others received over $1mn in bribes.

Local media reported that Sisi formally requested that Mahlab resign after he returned from a two-day visit to Tunisia as criticism against Sisi from the normally pro-government media has begun to increase.

The former PM has recently come under intense scrutiny for storming out of press conference when a journalist accused him of corruption, mishandling the unpopular Civil Service Act and suggesting that Egyptian young people should consider driving tuktuks for a living.

In recent months, Sisi has had to perform tasks that normally should have fallen to Mahlab, such as arranging meetings with ministers and negotiating business deals with foreign investors, according to two government officials.

Al-Araby al-Jadeed’s Arabic service has reported that Ismail has been having a hard time forming a cabinet because many possible candidates have refused to accept appointments.

“Several high-profile figures have turned down ministerial posts because the sensitivity of this period and because of the attacks ministers have come under,” an unnamed source said.

The source added: “The political, economic and security issues facing Egypt are preventing people from taking on ministerial posts. Wide-spread corruption has become a plague in Egypt just look at the former agriculture minister.”

Others have criticised Sisi’s decision to appoint Ismail as interim prime minister, “This is unfortunate because Ismail is responsible for all the country’s fuel issues,” said member of the Free Egyptians Party, Abd al-Nasser Youssef.

“The cabinet reshuffle will just be change of faces not policies and will have a negative impact on the government because there won’t be is not enough time for the new cabinet to accomplish anything,” Youssef added.

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