Egypt appoints 13 new ministers in cabinet reshuffle

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CAIRO — Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi announced a cabinet reshuffle on Saturday to improve the performance of his administration as it faces towering economic challenges stemming in large part from Russia’s war in Ukraine.

The Cabinet reshuffle, which was approved by Parliament in an emergency session, affected 13 portfolios, including the ministries of health, education, culture, local development and irrigation .

The tourism portfolio was also included in the reshuffle, a key position at a time when Egypt is struggling to revive the lucrative sector decimated by years of turmoil, the pandemic and most recently war in Europe.

El-Sisi said the reshuffle took place in consultation with Prime Minister Mustafa Madbouly. It was the third cabinet reshuffle since Madbouly was appointed prime minister in June 2018.

The president said in a Facebook post that the changes were aimed at “developing government performance in certain important files…which help protect the interests and capabilities of the state.”

Banker Ahmed Issa has taken over as head of the tourism and antiquities ministry, replacing Khaled al-Anani who led Egypt’s efforts in recent years to revive the tourism industry, a mainstay of the economy. These efforts included exhibiting old finds, opening new museums to attract international tourists.

Hani Sweilam, professor of water resources management at Germany’s RWTH University of Aachen, has been appointed Minister of Irrigation. He replaced Mohammed Abdel-Aty who oversaw years of technical negotiations with Ethiopia over its controversial dam on the main tributary of the Nile.

The new ministers are expected to be sworn in by el-Sissi on Sunday, according to the official Al-Ahram daily.

The changes, however, did not affect key ministries, including foreign affairs, finance, defense and interior, which is responsible for the police.

MP Abdel-Monem Emam of the opposition Justice party called the reshuffle “disappointing”. He said he hoped the government’s economic team would be included in the changes.

“What we – and the Egyptian street – have been waiting for are changes in policies and not people,” he wrote on Facebook.

Egypt’s economy has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic and the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has rattled global markets and pushed up oil and food prices around the world.

Egypt is the world’s largest importer of wheat, most of which came from Russia and Ukraine. The country’s supply is subject to price variations on the international market.

The government has held talks in recent months with the International Monetary Fund for a new loan to support its reform program and help address challenges caused by war in Europe. The government has received pledges from wealthy Gulf Arab countries for billions of dollars in investments, some of which is earmarked for private industry.

Egyptians’ food and energy bills have soared, increasing the burden on the poor and middle class who were already bearing the brunt of a 2016 reform program. This program, agreed with the IMF, included austerity measures painful shocks that have caused a sharp rise in commodity and commodity prices as well as services.

A recent devaluation of the Egyptian pound, which already lost half of its value in 2016, caused further increases in the prices of food and other raw materials.

July’s annual inflation rate was 14.6%, more than double the same month last year when it recorded 6.1%, according to the official statistics office.

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