Survivors from Mubarak's regime in new cabinet

Dina Ezzat, Niveen Wahish, Hatem Maher, Monday 7 Mar 2011

Ahram Online looks at why four ministers appointed by Mubarak seven years ago have kept their positions in Essam Sharaf's cabinet

Fayza Aboul-Naga: Minister of international cooperation and planning

"We have no problem with her; she could stay. We don’t consider her one of the (toppled president Hosni) Mubarak faces," said Yassin, a demonstrator who spoke to Ahram Online on Wednesday, the eve of the resignation of the much contested Ahmed Shafiq government.

Yassin's tolerance for the continued presence of Aboul-Naga is appreciated in government and foreign diplomatic quarters.

Career-diplomat Aboul-Naga was appointed minister for foreign affairs in 2001 when she shared the responsibility of Egyptian diplomacy with late veteran Ahmed Maher. With the advent of the Ahmed Nazif government in 2004, she was later assigned the ministry of international cooperation.

She was assigned the task of regulating the current dispute between Egypt and the Nile Basin countries over Egypt's share of water. She was delegated this responsibility at the onset of the dispute last May. African leaders always expressed their admiration for her vision and positions.

As minister for foreign affairs and international cooperation during the Mubarak era, Aboul-Naga maintained her famous posture during the years of diplomatic service: a patriotic, astute and disciplined official who speaks well and little.

"She just does her work and she was not part of the gang," was the way Yassin argued the case for Aboul-Naga.

The fact that Aboul-Naga was member of the former ruling National Democratic Party, which is seen by members of the revolution as a crucial player in the wide-spread corruption during Mubarak's three decade rule, means very little to Yassin.

Aboul-Naga ran with honesty and elegance a campaign on the woman's quota seat in her home-city of Port Said.

Even the opposition were impressed by her electoral campaign, noting that, unlike with many other NDP candidates, it was not marred by rigging or violence.

"It is not that we are irrational and that we want everybody to go just like this. If someone is good and has a good reputation and was not involved in corruption and in the destruction of Egypt and is not trying to by-pass the revolution, then we don’t mind them," said Yassin.

Thus, Egypt's new Prime Minister Essam Sharaf decided that Aboul-Naga keep her portfolio of international cooperation, expanded during the last phase of the Shafiq government to include Planning.

Hassan Younis, minister of electricity and renewable energy

It seems like yesterday when Hassan Younis was appointed minister of electricity. But believe it or not, he has been in office for almost ten years. In fact, he is the second longest standing electricity minister after Maher Abaza who held the post from 1980 to 1999.

Younis is Egypt's tenth electricity minister since 1946.

A lot has happened since he took office in November 2001. A series of restructuring and privatisation initiatives took place at the ministry affiliated companies. These involved unbundling the generation, transmission and distribution activities. Electricity has the most efficient subsidy system in the country, where – unlike food and energy subsidies – the needy pay less for their electricity while the heavy consumers pay more.

Younis proved that his calm attitude hides a tough warrior when he won the battle over the establishment of the nuclear power plant.

The site of the country's first nuclear power station was already chosen when a group of influential businessmen led a campaign against this choice. They all feared that their coastal resorts would gain a bad reputation if a nuclear reactor was located nearby, and used their position as NDP members and close links to Gamal Mubarak to change the location of the nuclear site. The debate was finally settled in favour of Al-Dabaa.

The urgency for nuclear-generated energy was clear last summer when frequent and lengthy power cuts revealed that power production was unable to meet increased demand, not only by citizens for their daily consumption, but by the industrial sector as well.

Younis left no stone unturned in his quest for generating additional energy.

Parallel to plans to boost energy production through nuclear energy, the minister also aimed for a 20 per cent share of electricity to be produced from renewable energy; 12 per cent of that from wind energy.

All the while, he has been trying to promote a culture of rationing by consumers, encouraging citizens to replace their traditional light bulbs for energy-saving versions. Moreover, plans were in store for a 7.5 per cent increase in energy prices. The decision due at the end of 2010 but was never enacted. And given the circumstances today, it is not likely that it will be implemented any time soon.

Maged George: ministry of state for environmental affairs and Sayed Meshaal: minister of military production

The decision to keep George and Meshaal drew questions on the official Facebook page of the Egyptian cabinet.

"Give me one valid reason why Meshaal and George remained in the cabinet?" asked one user while another said: "We thought that Mr Sharaf would definitely get rid of all the Mubarak associates."

Many Facebook users also posted the cabinet's email and called on people to send in their complaints over Sharaf's decision.

While many of the pleas of protesters were accepted by the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces during the past few weeks, the people's latest demands may fall on deaf ears.

George, who was born in 1949, graduated from the Military Academy in 1972 and took part in the 6 October war against Israel a year later.

He was chief of staff at the Military Works Department and also worked as a military attaché in Italy. He was chairman of the Armed Forces' Engineering Authority before being named as state minister for environmental affairs in 2004 under then prime minister Ahmed Nazif, with practically no blueprints what so ever.

George has been constantly criticised for failing to deal with critical levels of pollution in Cairo.

Meshaal, born in 1942, received a bachelor of science in chemistry from Cairo University. He has been minister of military production since 1999, but it was the seat he occupied in the parliament which stirred controversy. He has been accused of forging votes to beat off competition in the Helwan governorate in last year's disputed elections.

The military production factories have long been the subject of workers' complaints, and oppression under the auspices of the minister.


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