El-Beblawi cabinet leaves Egypt with mixed legacy, analysts say

Marina Barsoum , Tuesday 25 Feb 2014

A controversial protest law and worsening labour relations are among the issues that leave Hazem El-Beblawi's cabinet with a mixed record, according to analysts

Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi
Egypt's Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi (Photo: Egypt's Cabinet Facebook page)

During his resignation speech on Monday, interim Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi called on Egyptians to ask what they have done for Egypt rather than what Egypt has done for them.

The question prompted analysts to probe the achievements of El-Beblawi and his government during their seven months in office.

El-Beblawi's government had faced widespread criticism in recent weeks, most notably for the exclusion of crucial groups from the new public sector minimum wage. Doctors, public transport employees and textile workers have all held strikes in the last month.

Political performance

Political analyst Gamal Abdel-Gawad believes the interim government's performance should only be judged against the transitional roadmap – which included amending the constitution and passing it via a referendum.

Holding it accountable for all the problems – political, economic and social – Egypt has been grappling with since the 2011 uprising would be unfair, he says.

From this perspective, El-Beblawi's government "was progressing in a satisfactory way," he says, especially considering the ongoing political turmoil.

Abdel-Gawad concedes, though, that it should have made more effort towards solving certain problems – such as traffic and bureaucratic waste - that would have "made a great difference to the relationship between citizens and government."

Another contentious point, analysts say, is a protest law passed in December which banned all demonstrations not pre-approved by the authorities. The interim authorities said the law's purpose was to halt the pro-Morsi protests gripping the country.

"It is not a law that limits the right to demonstrate, but aims to protect the rights of protesters," El-Beblawi told AFP at the time.

However, after the law was used to round up non-Islamist protesters, especially prominent activists involved in the 2011 uprising, political figures began to speak out against it.

Ahmed Fawzi, a member of the Social Democratic Party, which El-Beblawi formed after the January 2011 uprising, says the protest law is an example of the government's "failure on the political level."

This was echoed by Nader Bakkar, spokesperson for the ultra-conservative Salafist Nour Party, the only Islamist party to support Morsi's ouster and the interim government's roadmap.

Bakkar says the law is an example of how the government "rushed into decisions."

"They decided to approve the protest law without listening to any other political party or alliance," he says.

Bakkar also criticises the government's decision to label the Brotherhood a terrorist organisation on 26 December.

Economic reforms

Experts can agree, though, that El-Beblawi's government fared better in stemming Egypt's economic slide.

“The government was working in very difficult circumstances," Fawzi says. "They succeeded in stemming the economy's long decline."

Finance ministry figures suggest the total budget deficit for the current fiscal year will be LE186 million ($27 billion), the equivalent of 9 percent of GDP, as compared to 14 percent – LE240 billion ($34.8 billion) – in the fiscal year 2012/13.

But Bakkar is not satisfied. "This government's role was to 'stop the bleeding'," he says. "We were not asking for any developments. But unfortunately they did not succeed."

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