Hazem Beblawi: Hard on Mubarak's regime, soft on businessmen

Marwa Hussein, Salma El-Wardani, Monday 18 Jul 2011

Hazem Beblawi's first pronouncements after being chosen as finance minister suggest there may be disappointment for those demanding a fairer budget reflecting the principles of the revolution

Hazem El-Beblawi
Hazem El-Beblawi

Hazem Beblawi, a well-known liberal economist, was appointed Egypt's vice-prime minister and minister of finance in the recent cabinet reshuffle.

He replaces Samir Radwan in the latter role, who was appointed a few days before former president Hosni Mubarak was ousted. Beblawi, who is 75 years old, has previously served as executive secretary for the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), a United Nations body, and has taught in universities in Egypt and abroad.

He is the author of numerous books on banking, finance, international trade and development and has won prestigious awards, including being made Chevalier de la Légion d'honneur in France and Grand Officier, Cedre de Liban in Lebanon.

He writes a column for Al-Ahram newspaper.

His first declaration after being appointed was a controversial one. Beblawi said in statements to many newspapers that he won't revise the actual budget, a budget that was severely criticised by economists as well as by the revolutionaries of Tahrir.

For them, the budget was no different to that of the old regime's; ignoring social dimensions.

"The budget was issued according to a law and the government approved it. If we modify it we will find every day somebody asking for other changes," Beblawi told Al-Shorouq newspaper.

"I didn't meet the personnel in the ministry yet. I'll make no declaration for the moment," he told Ahram Online, an answer that leaves doubts about the intentions of the new minister.

The principle of respect for the law is that Beblawi has always promoted as the guarantee for democracy, but the last version of the budget was not debated before its approval.

Beblawi, who served as an adviser to the Arab Monetary Fund in Abu Dhabi from 2001, used to criticise the previous regime and its policies, describing them as non-liberal.

"Most of the fortunes created in Egypt during the past 15 years were done through the government, through land purchasing and concessions," he s aid in a debate with the Tagammu party in 2009, in which he debated with Gouda Abdel-Khaleq, nowminister of social solidarity, on the problems of the Egyptian economy. The two economists, who should be working together in the coming period, found many common ideas despite their ideological differences.

Both agreed that corruption and the lack of industrialisation strategy are the main problems facing the Egyptian economy. But, whereas for Gouda Abdel-Khaleq the priority was income distribution, for Beblawi the first plan is the creation of wealth for society as a whole. Beblawi has always said that a strong market economy is the solution for the economy’s problems if controlled by a strong state.

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