Egypt shakes up Cabinet in bid to address economy

2013-01-07T00:00:00Z Egypt shakes up Cabinet in bid to address economyThe Associated Press The Associated Press
January 07, 2013 12:00 am  • 

CAIRO - Egypt swore in 10 new ministers on Sunday in a Cabinet shake-up aimed at improving the government's handling of the country's ailing economy ahead of talks this week with the International Monetary Fund over a badly needed $4.8 billion loan.

The reshuffle, which President Mohammed Morsi had promised in response to public anger over Egypt's economic malaise, affected two key ministries, the interior and finance. It also solidified Islamist control of the government, putting three portfolios in the hands of members of the president's Muslim Brotherhood.

The dire state of Egypt's economy was punctuated Sunday by new central bank figures that put December's foreign currency reserves at $15.01 billion, down $26 million from a month earlier. The reserves have dropped by more than half since the uprising that ousted longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

The central bank said last month that current reserve levels represent a "critical minimum."

Morsi met with the new ministers after their swearing-in ceremony at the presidential palace in Cairo where they discussed economic steps such as reviving tourism and attracting foreign investors.

Prime Minister Hesham Kandil said he stressed in his first meeting with the new ministers the need for immediate action to stabilize the economy.

At the heart of those efforts lies the $4.8 billion loan that Egypt has requested from the IMF. Cairo says the funds are needed to bolster confidence in the country's economy and attract foreign investors.

Egypt asked the IMF for a delay in the talks on the loan after a wave of political turmoil erupted in December over a contentious new constitution.

The unrest also sparked a rush on U.S. dollars by worried residents and led to a drop in the Egyptian pound, which shed nearly 4 percent of its value against the dollar over the past two weeks.

The opposition, a coalition of liberal, secular-leaning and leftist groups, was not offered any seats in the new Cabinet and has said that any government shake-up that doesn't replace Kandil falls short of what is needed.

El-Morsi Hegazy, a professor of public finance at Alexandria University, takes over the Finance Ministry, replacing Mumtaz el-Said, who was appointed by the country's transitional military rulers and widely viewed as being at odds with the Brotherhood.

Mohammed Ibrahim, meanwhile, will lead the Interior Ministry, which is responsible for the police force. He previously was in charge of prisons and before was director of security in the province of Assiut.

Ibrahim said his priorities will be to fight a rising wave of crime and to restore stability to Egypt.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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