Abdel Fattah el-Sisi keeps Egyptian PM to fix economy after turmoil

Jun 09 2014, 20:23 IST
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SummaryNewly inaugurated President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reappointed Egypt's prime minister on Monday...

Newly inaugurated President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi reappointed Egypt's prime minister on Monday, signalling continuity as he sets out to fix the economy and overcome political divisions after a long period of turmoil and bloodshed.

In comments carried by the state news agency, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said the current government would stay on in a caretaker role until he forms a new cabinet. Consultations had not yet begun, he said, although officials have said many of the leading ministers such as finance are likely to be unchanged.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who as armed forces chief toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi last July following mass protests, was sworn in on Sunday in a ceremony with low-key attendance by Western allies concerned by a crackdown on dissent.

While Abdel Fattah el-Sisi quit the military in March, a lower-than-expected turnout in last month's presidential elections fell short of giving him a strong mandate to take tough measures to repair an economy wounded by three years of instability and regular violence which has scared away foreign investors and tourists.

Keeping the main ministers in place could allow Abdel Fattah el-Sisi to implement quickly the kind of reforms that the United Arab Emirates - one of the Gulf Arab states that gave Egypt billions of dollars in aid after Mursi's fall - has been encouraging.

Fawaz Gerges, Professor of Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics, said Sisi had to tackle the problems that are undermining Egyptians' living standards and state finances.

"He knows that he has a one year honeymoon and that's why he has to deliver in terms of jobs, in terms of lowering inflation, in terms of the debt," he said. "That's why he's keeping Mehleb in place and that's why he's keeping the major portfolios."

One of the most important figures in Egypt's drive to resuscitate the economy is Finance Minister Hany Kadry Dimian, who is expected to stay on in the new administration.

Educated at Columbia University in the United States, he was described by a senior European diplomat as the only ministry expert able to deal professionally with the International Monetary Fund during a failed attempt under Mursi to secure a $4.8 billion loan.

Reuters reported on Friday that Western consultants were advising Egypt's government - apparently with Sisi's blessing - on an economic reform plan which could serve as a basis for restarting talks

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