On 16 February, Prime Minister Sherif Ismail got parliamentary approval for the new ministers that he had chosen for the cabinet reshuffle.
The reshuffle comes during a time that is seeing extreme instability of the economy. The new ministers will also have to deal with the heavy burdens that citizens face after the implementation of major economic reforms that include subsidy cuts, inflation, and price hikes.
Therefore, the current time is a very sensitive one for the new ministers, who will face a lot of challenges if they are to improve the currently bad situation.
Daily News Egypt asked experts about the most pressing challenges that they are facing and about possible solutions for these issues.
Civil Service Law and Investment Law, main challenges for ministries of investment, planning
Since Dalia Khorshid came to office as minister of investment in March 2016, she said that the ministry will issue the new Investment Law, which it didn’t actually do. She also worked on solving the problems between investors and the government.
The Investment Law is one of the main problems that Egypt has been facing since the revolution of 25 January 2011, after the outflows of foreign capitals from the Egyptian market.
On 16 February, the cabinet asked Minister of International Cooperation Sahar Nasr to take over the Ministry of Investment, becoming the first minister in Sherif Ismail’s cabinet to head two ministries.
Nasr said that Khorshid did what she could with the ministry, and it’s now the time for her to work on the challenges that face it.
Daily News Egypt asked experts about Khorshid’s performance and about what they expect to see from Nasr as the new Minister of Investment.
Aliaa El-Mahdy, the former dean of the Economics and Political Science College at Cairo University, said that Khorshid didn’t change anything worth mentioning during her tenure, explaining that she didn’t finish the Investment Law, which was supposed to have been issued.
She added that the investments in Egypt didn’t noticeably change, especially the foreign investments, because investors are waiting for the new law.
“The only thing that she made was the Supreme Council of Investment, which also didn’t make a noticeable change in the investment climate.”
Regarding Nasr, El-Mahdy believes that there is a difference between the two ministries, and Nasr shouldn’t have taken over the ministry, adding that the Ministry of International Cooperation deals with international institutions and donors, unlike the Ministry of Investment, which has a different scope of work.
“The minister of investment needs to work on attracting investments as the main job,” El-Mahdy noted.
Moreover, Abubakr Emam, the head of the research department at Prime Holding, said that the performance of Khorshid was extremely unsatisfying, adding that she wasted a lot of time and didn’t propose the Investment Law.
However, he believes that Nasr achieved great progress with the loans and grants that she received, but if she faces the same milestones, then it could not achieve anything with the Ministry of Investment.
“Khorshid achieved great success with Orascom Company,” says Emam, explaining that the problem is with the minister’s team, who could prevent any progress rather than enhancing it.
The minister should focus on choosing the right team, while all of the ministry should be reformed, including employee restructuring, Emam noted, adding that the government must fight bureaucracy.
Challenges of Ministry of Planning
Since he took over the Ministry of Planning in 2012, Ashraf El-Araby hasn’t left his office until the cabinet reshuffle under Prime Minister Sherif Ismail, who replaced him with Hala El-Saied, who left her position as dean of Economics and Political Science at Cairo University.
El-Araby, who struggled to get the parliament’s approval for the Civil Service Law, has left the ministry that will face a lot of challenges in the next period under El-Saied.
El-Mahdy said that the Ministry of Planning does not have a tangible structure. She believes that it does study the different classes of society, from the grass-roots level up until the middle class, in order to know the requirements of society and hence plan accordingly.
She stated that El-Araby was completely doing his job in the part of planning.
She added that he also has done his job with issuing the Civil Service Law, which was approved by the parliament. “It’s her job to implement the law on all of the country’s employees,” she noted about El-Saied.
And about administrative reform, El-Mahdy stated that what Egypt needs is to fix a lot of its governmental institutions, adding that if the new minister did solve the problems of the administrative structure, Egyptians will feel a lot better.
From another view point, Emam said that El-Araby was doing a great job, although there’s no problem with El-Saied.
He stated that he wants to see an effective role for the ministry, as well as for there to be a real plan regarding everything to the country, in order to predict how the country is going to grow.
Emam believes that the government must plan for the future in order to know how and what types of investments it should attract, along with what type of education it should provide its people to ready them for the targeted future investments. This, Emam said, is the role of the Ministry of Planning.
“I hope that El-Saied will keep the same good performance of the previous minister and will work to improve the administrative structure of the government,” Emam noted.
More reforms needed, smaller budget available: new challenges for a new minister
The new Minister of Transportation Hesham Arafat took office on 16 February. When Arafat started his job as a minister, he promised to look for ways to keep the price of metro tickets as cheap as it currently is, and he also called for the authorities responsible about conducting the research about the train system’s level-crossings that have caused a lot of accidents in previous years.
He stated that he is not satisfied with the current railway situation, stating that it needs reform.
Moreover, Omar El-Shenety, managing director at Multiples Group, said that the government needs to understand that it must depend more heavily on the private sector by giving it more space to expand in the economy or by privatising some of the current projects, which is one of the challenges the ministry faces and the new minister will have to take on.
Another challenge is to implement reforms with a small budget, he added, explaining that the government has to cut the budget because of the economic crisis it faces. El-Shenety stated that the minister has to find solutions to improve the efficiency and the quality of services on a smaller budget, which is not an easy challenge to overcome.
Regarding the metro, he believes that the price of the tickets is going to go up sooner or later. He stated that increasing the price would not change everything, so the minister has to find a solution to the core of the problem, claiming that increasing prices would not turn losses into gains.
Subsidies are the main challenge for the new Minister of Supply
The Ministry of Supply and Internal Trading has witnessed a reshuffle, making Ali Meselhy head of the ministry.
Meselhy held a meeting—after he assumed office on 16 February—with the directors of the ministry, in order to talk about food reserves, especially wheat and other grain supplies.
It seems like the new minister has to find solutions for a lot of problems that might take great efforts to be resolved.
Daily News Egypt asked Sherien El-Shawarby, professor of economy at Cairo University, about the challenges that might face the new minister.
She said that it will take a lot of effort in order for the new minister to succeed, stating that the subsidy system is transforming from food subsidies to cash subsidies, which is one of the main challenges. The ministry needs to work around the advantages of both systems in order to make the poorest segments of society benefit from it.
She also believes that the prices of products are increasing and that the people are not satisfied with that.
Concerning the aspect of internal trading, she believes that the minister must understand the supply and value chain in order to draw up plans for a new infrastructure, to revise the available reserves, and to stabilise the market.
Furthermore, a professor of economy at the American University in Cairo, who preferred to remain anonymous, stated that the change in leadership does not make a difference at all, as long as the system remains the same.