Egypt's new ministers set out economic priorities

Ahram Online, Thursday 18 Jul 2013

Social justice, subsidised bread, fuel, and security among the many boxes to be ticked by the new cabinet's economic team

Egypt's Minister of Finanace, Ahmed Galal

Egypt's new interim cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Hazem El-Beblawi, was sworn in on Tuesday amid economic challenges which require a government able to bolster the country's financial image.

Several of the newly-appointed ministers have already stated their respective priorities in their initial statements.

Finance minister Ahmed Galal said that financial discipline and achieving a balanced economy to create more job opportunities top his to-do list. 

The liberal economist pointed out that his ministry will also seek to accomplish social justice in such a way that the benefits of domestic growth are distributed fairly among all segments of Egyptian society. 

For his part, supply minister Mohamed Abu Shadi told Ahram Online on Tuesday he was aiming for a public discussion about subsidised bread that includes producers, distributors and consumers.

"My first priority is to make sure that supplies of basic commodities like wheat are within the safe limits," he added.

Egypt's last trade minister introduced a new system whereby the government continued to subsidise bread, but not flour.

The government purchased bread from bakeries then sold it to consumers at a subsidised price of 5 piastres.

Petroleum minister Sherif Ismail has said that he will focus on addressing domestic demand for petroleum products by increasing natural gas production and resuming imports of diesel and low-quality mazut fuel. 

Returning investment minister Osama Saleh was quoted by state Al-Ahram news website on Tuesday as stating that that the general climate in Egypt will attract investments once the situation settles down, referring to ongoing political unrest in the wake of Morsi’s ouster.

Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour, who opted to head the ministry of industry and foreign trade, said in a Wednesday meeting that he was looking forward to solving issues of halted projects, providing power, and bolstering security in industrial areas.

Regarding workers and their trade unions, manpower minister Kamal Abu-Eita vowed to issue the long-awaited syndicate freedom law, alongside setting minimum wage policies.

Abu-Eita is a labour activist and former president of the Egyptian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (EFITU).

Planning minister Ashraf El-Araby, who also held the same post before the last reshuffle, told Ahram Online on Monday that Egypt is unlikely to be in a position to seek a long-sought $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) before the end of this year.

He added that aid received from Arab states, which has so far totalled $12 billion from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait, would carry Egypt through its transitional period.

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