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Economist Ahmed Galal to be Egypt's new finance minister

World Bank veteran Ahmed Galal will head key ministry under premiership of interim prime minister Hazem El-Beblawi

Ahram Online, Monday 15 Jul 2013
Ahmed Galal
Ahmed Galal (Photo: Al-Ahram)
Views: 6293
Views: 6293

Egyptian economist and World Bank veteran Ahmed Galal has accepted the offer to head the finance ministry in Egypt's new government, under the premiership of fellow economist Hazem El-Beblawi.

Galal, who holds a doctorate in economics from Boston University, has been the managing director of the Economic Research Forum (ERF), a Cairo-based non-governmental research institution covering the Middle East, since 2007.

Prior to that, Galal was a researcher with the World Bank for 18 years, where he served as industrial economist for Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa, economic advisor at the private sector development department, and finally as adviser on the Middle East and North Africa from 2006 to 2007.

Under the Morsi regime, Galal participated in an economic development initiative launched by former prime minister Hisham Qandil in December 2012 which aimed to tackle Egypt's economic challenges through a series of "societal dialogues" between various societal and political groups. 

Galal is described as a "non-partisan proponent of the importance of growth with equity as well as the vital role of politics for sound economic policies."

"What Egypt needs is a combination of policies that promote growth and private initiative, while simultaneously making sure the benefits are shared widely," the economist told Ahram Online in February 2011.

As finance minister, Galal will oversee the passing of the 2013/2014 state budget at a time when Egypt is pressured by the International Monetary Fund to cut government spending, including state-subsidies of food and fuel, in order to qualify for a $4.8 billion loan. 

The draft budget for the current fiscal year, which began on 1 July, was approved by Egypt's upper house of parliament but was not signed by former president Mohamed Morsi before massive street protests led to his ousting by the country's armed forces.

Egypt’s total budget deficit reached LE205 billion (approximately $29.2 billion) – representing 11.8 percent of GDP – in the first 11 months of the 2012/13 fiscal year. 

The bill for fuel subsidies, which consume around a fifth of Egypt's budget expenditures, reached LE120 billion in the 2012/2013 fiscal year, which ended in June.  In 2011, Galal had spoken out against the Egyptian government's subsidising of commodities, but urged caution in implementing economic reform.

"It is going to take time. You need to have a clear idea of where you want to go and actively come up with initiatives, subject them to social debate and begin adopting them, because clarity of thinking and accountability are fundamental to progress."

A prolific writer, Galal has authored and co-authored over a dozen works on privatisation, regulation of monopolies, trade, monetary policy and fiscal policy. 

The prospective minister was also the executive director of research of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (ECES), another independent think tank, between 2000 and 2006.  

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