El-Sissi keeps premier to fix economy

Egypt's Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb.

CAIRO: Newly inaugurated President Abdel Fattah El-Sissi reappointed Egypt’s prime minister on Monday, signalling continuity as he sets out to fix the economy and overcome political divisions after a long period of turmoil and bloodshed.

In comments carried by the state news agency, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb said the current government would stay on in a caretaker role until he forms a new Cabinet. Consultations had not yet begun, he said, although officials have said many of the leading ministers such as finance are likely to be unchanged.

Keeping the main ministers in place could allow El-Sissi to implement quickly the kind of reforms that the UAE has been encouraging.

Fawaz Gerges, Professor of Middle East Studies at the London School of Economics, said El-Sissi had to tackle the problems that are undermining Egyptians’ living standards and state finances.

“He knows that he has a one year honeymoon and that’s why he has to deliver in terms of jobs, in terms of lowering inflation, in terms of the debt,” he said. “That’s why he’s keeping Mehleb in place and that’s why he’s keeping the major portfolios.”

One of the most important figures in Egypt’s drive to resuscitate the economy is Finance Minister Hany Kadry Dimian, who is expected to stay on in the new administration.

Educated at Columbia University in the United States, he was described by a senior European diplomat as the only ministry expert able to deal professionally with the International Monetary Fund to secure a $4.8 billion loan.

Reuters reported on Friday that Western consultants were advising Egypt’s government — apparently with El-Sissi’s blessing — on an economic reform plan which could serve as a basis for restarting talks on a IMF loan deal.

Mehleb, 65, was appointed prime minister in February after serving previously in housing portfolio. A civil engineer, he is a former chairman of Arab Contractors, one of the region’s largest construction companies, and worked briefly in Saudi Arabia before joining the government.

The Egyptian pound strengthened slightly at a central bank sale on Monday to 7.1402 pounds to the dollar from 7.1403 at its last sale on Thursday, and it remained steady on the parallel market.

The gap between the pound’s rates on the official and black markets has narrowed markedly since El-Sissi’s election, with the currency appreciating markedly against the dollar at unofficial rates.

Egypt’s benchmark stock index closed up 1.1 percent.





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