Observers speculate that President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi will announce a cabinet reshuffle after he returns from Germany at the end of this week.
Informed sources say Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli will retain his post, as will the ministers of defence and foreign affairs.
“The ministers who are expected to leave government are in charge of public sector portfolios and include Minister of Health Hala Zayed, Minister of Supply Ali Al-Moselhi and Minister of Education Tarek Shawki,” said MP Mustafa Bakri.
Bakri said it was likely that Minister of Justice Mohamed Hossam will also be among the cabinet departees.
The cabinet reshuffle comes after a number of public service ministers faced sharp criticism last month from MPs.
On Sunday Yasser Rizk, chairman of the board of directors of Akhbar Al-Youm, told the TV channels Sada Al-Balad and ON that he expects around 10 ministers to be replaced.
Rizk said he hoped the new ministers will be politically-oriented technocrats.
“It’s not enough for new cabinet ministers to be technocrats. They also need to have political sense,” said Rizk.
He cited current Minister of Supply Ali Moselhi as an example of a competent technocrat whose lack of political onus could be his undoing.
In December Moselhi’s decision to review lists of ration card holders to ensure subsidies were restricted to those who most need them led to headlines saying two million citizens had been denied access to subsidised goods. The move was widely seen as contributing to the street protests that occurred at the end of September.
“Moselhi mishandled the reform of the ration card subsidy programme, and President Al-Sisi and Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouli had to intervene to contain the damage,” said Rizk. “New cabinet appointees will need a greater degree of political sense to avoid such pitfalls.”
According to Rizk, some cabinet ministers have been doing a great job since the current government was sworn-in in June 2015.
“Topping the list are Minister of Electricity Mohamed Shaker, Minister of Religious Endowments Mokhtar Gomaa, Minister of Transport Kamel Al-Wazir, Minister of Housing Helmi Al-Gazzar and Minister of Planning Hala Al-Said.” All of them, says Rizk, have shown themselves administratively competent and politically aware.
Bakri told Al-Ahram Weekly that Al-Wazir had not only engineered a dramatic improvement in the performance of the railway sector but had acted successfully to head off public anger at reports of misconduct among some railway employees.
Rizk believes Gomaa has also done an excellent job in standing up to the banned Muslim Brotherhood and acting to reform religious discourse.
Rizk argues that the cabinet reshuffle should be followed by concerted political reforms.
“Political reform needs to be enacted ahead of the parliamentary and local council elections scheduled for next year. We need to see widespread consultations to this end.
“Egypt reached a tipping point in 2013. When President Al-Sisi took office in 2014 the focus, out of necessity, was on restoring security and stability and reforming the economy.
“The coming stage should see a shift towards political reform which can reactivate political parties and create new cadres that can eventually occupy leading positions, particularly the post of the president of the republic, guaranteeing that in the future we will see a peaceful rotation of power.”
At the moment, says Rizk, should President Al-Sisi decide not to stand in 2024, “we could face a problem and might have no choice but ask a strong military figure to stand”.
Meanwhile, parliament’s 25 committees have finished their discussions of the government’s policy statement delivered by Madbouli on 8 October. Deputy Parliament Speaker Mahmoud Al-Sherif said a report containing all the remarks and recommendations made by the committees is being prepared and will be debated in plenary sessions after which MPs will vote on whether to renew confidence in the government.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 21 November, 2019 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly.