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Egypt's new economy ministers: Who's who

Mostly technocrats and unknowns, ministers with economic portfolios face a daunting task; Ahram Online provides the low-down on the most important figures

Ahmed Feteha, Bassem Abo Al Abass, Nesma Nowar, Friday 3 Aug 2012
From left Hisham Zazou, tourism minister, Momtaz El-Saeed, finance minister and Osama Saleh, investment minister
Views: 10623
Views: 10623

The economy ministers chosen for Prime Minister Hisham Qandil's new government are mostly new faces on the political scene, with only the finance minister from the previous cabinet retaining his post.

Amid a group of technocrats the one exception is new trade minister, Hatem Saleh, CEO of Gozour Group and a relatively famous tycoon.
The core economic group of Egypt's Cabinet consists of the ministries of finance, planning, investment and industry and foreign trade. Ministers of other economy-related portfolios, such as supply and internal trade, tourism, manpower and petroleum, have also been announced.
The following are brief profiles of the new ministers:


Core economy portfolios

Momtaz El-Saeed, finance minister

El-Saeed was second-in-command at the finance ministry before being appointed minister in December of last year by former premier El-Ganzouri.

He was called from retirement in mid-2011 to serve as deputy finance minister to then-finance minister Hazem El-Biblawy. El-Saeed is known for being a disciplined bureaucrat, spending much of his career working on state budgets. During the late 1990s he served as general director of the ministry's budget division.

No drastic policy changes are expected from El-Saeed, given his conservative inclinations, as seen in Egypt's 2012/13 state budget, which he prepared. That budget includes 8.8 per cent growth in state spending, barely keeping in line with inflation.

El-Saeed, who presented the budget to the currently-dissolved parliament two months behind schedule, was the target of criticism by the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, which claimed that the delay had been deliberate.

One FJP official dubbed El-Saeed's budget "a plot" to make the new president fail.

"This budget is exactly the same as every other Mubarak-era budget," Ashraf Badr El-Din, former MP and head of the FJP's economic policy committee, told Ahram Online in June. "The same failed policies will yield the same results."

El-Saeed rarely appears in the media, and, unlike his predecessors, maintains a low profile vis-a-vis public.


Osama Saleh, investment minister

Saleh, chairman of Egypt's General Authority for Free Zones and Investment (GAFI), was appointed investment minister in the new government.

The investment ministry seat has remained vacant since Mahmoud Mohieldin stepped down in September 2010 after being appointed managing director of the World Bank. Since then, the trade and industry minister has served as stop-gap investment minister.

Born in 1960 and a graduate of Cairo University's commerce faculty, Saleh was appointed by Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Nazif as the chairman of GAFI in September of 2009. He also served as chairman of Egypt's Mortgage Finance Authority from 2005 to 2009.

During the past year and a half, GAFI has worked on resolving land disputes between investors and the government regarding land allocations by compensating the state for the difference in value of the land in question. Many observers criticised the move, however, claiming that the sums paid by investors were much less than the land’s real value.

Following last year's revolution, many investors faced legal challenges to their land holdings after accusations that they had illegally acquired vast swathes of state land.

GAFI is a governmental entity concerned with regulating and facilitating investment, foreign and otherwise. It also acts as Egypt's sole 'one-stop shop' for investment, which aims at helping investors worldwide take advantage of opportunities in Egypt.

The number of days required to start a business in Egypt fell from 19 in 2007 to only seven in 2012, while the number of procedures required to start a business fell during the same period from ten to six. Egypt currently ranks 21st worldwide in terms of the ease of starting a business, according to, and is in second place after Saudi Arabia in the Middle East and North Africa region.


Hatem Saleh, industry and foreign trademinister

Hatem Saleh's appointment as Minister of Industry and International Trade follows an 18-year rise to the top of Egypt's dairy industry, taking in keys posts at international companies like Proctor & Gamble, Farm Frites and Unilever.

Saleh was also previously the head of the dairy products division in Egypt’s Federation of Industries and ex-general manager at the International Company for Agro-Industrial Projects (Beyti), a leading Egyptian dairy producer.

He had also showed signs of political ambition. Saleh is deputy head of the Hadara ('Civilisation') political party, created after the 2011 uprising, mainly by former members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Saleh is currently CEO of Gozour, an agrifoods company owed by the Middle East's leading private equity firm Citadel Capital which in turn is chaired by Egyptian tycoon Ahmed Heikal.

Companies in Gozour's portfolio include Dina Farms, Rashidi El-Mizan, Enjoy, Elmisrieen, El-Aguizy International and Mom’s Foods. It also owns the Sudan-based confectioner Al-Musharraf.


Ashraf El-Araby, minister of planning and international cooperation

Ashraf El-Araby appointment as Egypt's new Minister of Planning and International Cooperation is the culmination to a career spent almost entirely at the country's National Planning Institute (NPH).

An economist by training, El-Araby received his PhD in the subject from Kansas State University in the United States.

From 2006 until the end of 2011 he headed the technical advisory office of the former planning minister, Fayza Abul-Naga. After a brief interlude, during which he worked at the Arab Planning Institute in Kuwait, Al-Araby was called back to head the ministry.

Filling the shoes of Abu El-Naga, regarded as one of the most powerful figures in Egypt's cabinets from 2002 until this year, might not be an easy task for El-Araby.

The former minister was the driving force behind the prosecution of the staff of American-funded NGOs in Egypt, which she accused of undermining the country. The closure of several NGO office caused the deepest strain in US-Egypt relations in some 30 years. 

But Abul Naga's central role in the affair was said to be more driven by her closeness to the ruling military than her official ministerial position.

Al-Araby, by contrast, is seemingly apolitical. His role as senior economist in the NPH and his apparent distance from Egypt's ruling elites, mean his name is little known among the public.

A man seemingly committed to organisation and practical problem-solving, El-Araby is unlikely to have the same influence over Egyptian public affairs in Egypt that his predecessor -- a veteran diplomat -- enjoyed.


Economy-related portfolios


Khaled El-Azhary, manpower ministry

As the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) soared to political success in the wake of Egypt's uprising, so too rose the stock of erstwhile member Khaled El-Azhary.

An MP in the now-dissolved parliament, a member of the constituent assembly and on the board of the new National Federation of Trade Unions, El-Azhary's is an increasingly well-known figure in Egypt's political scene.

Born in 1960, he started his career as a laboratory technician in a state-owned Egyptian petroleum firm. In 2002, he obtained a bachelor's degree in law and later acquired two diplomas in Islamic studies.

El-Azhary was secretary of the labour committee Egypt's short-lived parliament, a body criticised by activists for not attempting widespread reform of work-related legislation.

Speaking to Ahram Online on Thursday, El-Azhary said he intends to have the Ministry of Manpower mediate between employers and workers to counteract simmering tensions in Egypt's industrial workplaces.

"There are some demands from workers that are legitimate but others are not," the newly-appointed minister said. 

"We will try to strike the balance of ensuring workers' rights while encouraging company-owners to continue investment."


Osama Kamal, petroleum minister

Osama Kamal is the chairman of the Egyptian Petrochemicals Holding Company (Echem), which belongs to the petroleum ministry. Established in 2002, Echem is mandated with managing and developing Egypt's petrochemicals industry.

Echem owns shares in ten affiliated companies worth some LE2.4 billion. The company realised total revenues of LE360 million ($60 million) in 2009/2010, representing 13 per cent growth on the previous year.

Born in 1959 in the Nile Delta city of Zagazig, Kamal graduated from the chemistry department in the engineering faculty at Cairo University in 1982. He began his career as an engineer at the state-owned Engineering for Petroleum and Process Industries (Enppi). Several years later, he moved to Petrojet, another public-sector energy company.

In 2002, he helped establish Echem and was appointed company chairman in 2009.

During his tenure as head of Echem, the crisis erupted concerning the Agrium fertiliser plant in the Nile Delta city of Damietta. In 2008, the Canadian factory faced a well-organised popular campaign that claimed the factory was bad for the environment.

Accordingly, the Egyptian government abruptly announced the project's cancellation, and the Canadian company was offered a 26 per cent stake in state-owned Egyptian fertiliser producer MOPCO.

The apparent resumption of the project in 2011 again galvanised local activists, dragging the company – which is 30 per cent owned by Echem – into further controversy.


Hisham Zazou, tourism minister

Currently serving as senior assistant to Tourism Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, Zazou's appointment comes as a relief to many in the embattled industry.

As he does not belong to an Islamist party, Zazou's appointment eases the fears of workers in Egypt's tourism sector, which many had feared might be seriously impacted by Islamic rule.

Many sceptics had speculated that the Muslim Brotherhood and its new president would not tolerate the European tourist lifestyle, characterised by beach parties, bikinis and alcohol.

Born in 1954, Zazou graduated in 1980 from Ain Shams University's commerce faculty.

Zazou began his career by working for the City Bank Group for five years in Cairo. Afterwards, he entered the tourism field after helping to establish a tourist agency in the US targeting the Egyptian market.

From 2004 to 2007, Zazou headed up the Egyptian Tourism Federation.

He is the first Egyptian to serve as a deputy in the World Tourism Organisation's business council.


Abu-Zeid Mohamed Abu-Zeid, supply and interior trade minister

Before his appointment as supply and interior trade minister, Abu-Zeid served as vice president of Egypt's Food Industries Holding Company.

Unlike his predecessor, Gouda Abdel-Khalek – a prominent leftist economist and politician – Abu-Zeid is a relatively unknown bureaucrat.

The supply and interior trade ministry is responsible for providing the wider Egyptian public with vital commodities. Accordingly, the minister is traditionally held responsible for occasional shortages of butane gas (used for cooking in most Egyptian households) and bread.

Founded in 1983, the Food Industries Holding Company is a state-owned company boasting a capital of LE2.4 billion. The company comprises 23 companies working in the fields of sugar, fodder, milk, pasta, paper and preserved food production.

Additional reporting by Dalia Farouq


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