Al-Ahram Weekly   Al-Ahram Weekly
14 - 20 October 1999
Issue No. 451
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Shuffle sense

By Shaden Shehab

Atef Ebeid and Mubarak Ebeid takes the oath of office
President Hosni Mubarak this week approved the line-up of Prime Minister Atef Ebeid's new 33-member cabinet. On Saturday, Ebeid met with 19 ministers who retained their posts and on Sunday met with the 13 newcomers. The key portfolios of defence, foreign affairs, the interior and information remained in the same hands. The newcomers filled the portfolios of local development, insurance and social affairs, industry, electricity, military production, transport, supply and local trade, planning and international cooperation, the public business sector, finance and petroleum.

A new portfolio, youth affairs, was added. The portfolio of communications and transport was divided into two separate ministries, and the portfolio of communications was expanded to include the information industry. Ten members of Kamal El-Ganzouri's outgoing cabinet lost their jobs, in addition to Ebeid who was elevated to prime minister.

President Mubarak began his fourth term on 5 October by appointing Ebeid as prime minister. Ebeid, a 67-year-old technocrat, had served as minister of the public business sector in the outgoing government and played a key role in implementing its privatisation programme. From 1993 to 1997, Ebeid held the posts of minister of state for cabinet affairs, minister of state for administrative development and minister of the public business sector. His achievements include the preparation of a plan to develop the public sector, negotiating with the IMF and streamlining the procedures for private sector enterprise.

Those retaining their posts are Deputy Prime Minister and Agriculture and Land Reclamation Minister Youssef Wali, Defence and Military Production Minister Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Foreign Minister Amr Moussa, Interior Minister Habib El-Adli, Information Minister Safwat El-Sherif, Higher Education Minister and Minister of State for Scientific Research Moufid Shehab, Justice Minister Farouk Seif El-Nasr, Awqaf (religious endowments) Minister Hamdi Zaqzouq, Culture Minister Farouk Hosni, Tourism Minister Mamdouh El-Beltagui, Minister of State for People's Assembly and Shura Council Affairs Kamal El-Shazli, Housing, Utilities and Urban Communities Minister Mohamed Ibrahim Suleiman, Manpower and Emigration Minister Ahmed El-Amawi, Minister of State for Administrative Development Mohamed Zaki Abu Amer, Health and Population Minister Ismail Sallam, Public Works and Water Resources Minister Mahmoud Abdel-Halim Abu Zeid, Minister of State for Environment Nadia Makram Ebeid and Education Minister Hussein Kamel Bahaeddin. Youssef Boutros Ghali stayed on as minister of economy but his powers were expanded to include external trade.

Justice Minister Farouk Seif El-Nasr and Culture Minister Farouk Hosni first joined the cabinet in October 1987. In May 1991, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Amr Moussa, and Hussein Kamel Bahaeddin became ministers.

In October 1993, Youssef Boutros Ghali, Kamal El-Shazli, Mamdouh El-Beltagui, Mohamed Zaki Abu Amer, Mohamed Ibrahim Suleiman and Ahmed El-Amawi joined the cabinet for the first time.

In January 1996, Mahmoud Zaqzouq and Ismail Sallam became ministers.

In July 1997, Moufid Shehab, Mahmoud Abu Zeid and Nadia Makram Ebeid joined the cabinet.

In November 1997, Habib El-Adli was assigned the interior portfolio.

The newcomers are: Alieddin Hilal, dean of Cairo University's Faculty of Economy and Political Science, who became minister of youth affairs; Ali El-Sa'idi, who was assigned the energy and electricity portfolio replacing Maher Abaza; Sameh Fahmi who became minister of petroleum, replacing Hamdi El-Banbi; Medhat Hassanein who replaced Mohieddin El-Gharib as minister of finance; Mukhtar Khattab, who was appointed minister of the public business sector, replacing Atef Ebeid; Ahmed El-Darsh who was appointed as planning minister and state minister for international cooperation, replacing Zafer El-Bishri; Sayed Mesh'al who was appointed minister of state for military production, replacing Mohamed Ghamrawi; Amina El-Guindi who became minister of insurance and social affairs, replacing Mervat El-Tellawi.

Newcomer Mustafa El-Rifai was given the industry portfolio, which was renamed technological development and industry instead of industry and mineral wealth, replacing Suleiman Reda.

Suleiman Metwalli's portfolio of transport and communications was divided into two separate ministries. Transport went to Ibrahim El-Demeiri and communications, which was expanded to include the information industry, was given to Ahmed Nazif.

Hassan Khedr was appointed as minister of supply and internal trade, replacing Ahmed Gweili.

The portfolio of rural development was renamed local development and given to Mustafa Abdel-Qader, replacing Mahmoud El-Sherif. The post of cabinet affairs minister, held by Talaat Hammad, was abolished and Ahmed Hassan Abu Taleb was chosen instead to fill the post of cabinet secretary-general.

Suleiman Metwalli and Maher Abaza had served as ministers for the longest periods. In October 1978, Metwalli became minister for cabinet affairs and in May 1980 he became minister of transport and communications. Maher Abaza had been minister of electricity since May 1980.

In a related development, Ebeid announced the appointment of six ministerial working groups. The first is for the production sector with Youssef Wali at its head; the second for national security headed by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi; the third for the development of human resources headed by Safwat El-Sherif; the fourth for economy headed by Youssef Boutros Ghali; the fifth for mega projects headed by Mahmoud Abu Zeid; and the sixth for public utilities headed by Ibrahim Suleiman.

Political analysts speaking to Al-Ahram Weekly could not detect the criteria behind the cabinet changes, agreeing that they involved persons rather than policies.

"The criteria behind the changes are unclear," Fahmi Howeidy, a writer and political analyst, said. "Some ministers who had retained their posts for a long time lost their jobs but others did not. So we cannot say the change was intended to inject new blood. Some ministers who held economic portfolios lost their jobs but others did not. So we cannot say that economic policy will change." Added Howeidy: "it seems that the prime minister replaced certain people whom he considered inefficient and kept others whose performance was satisfactory to him."

Hassan Nafa'a, a professor of political science at Cairo University, agreed with Howeidy. "There is no evident philosophy behind the change. It is not what the people expected." He added that the main goal of the reshuffle was to remove El-Ganzouri. "It appears that leaders of the National Democratic Party have emerged victorious from their power struggle with El-Ganzouri." There had been repeated confrontations between the two sides, with NDP leaders complaining that El-Ganzouri was marginalising their roles.

"The most significant change is that Ebeid curtailed the responsibilities of the prime minister," said Adel Hammouda, a writer and former deputy chief editor of Rose Al-Youssef magazine who had accused El-Ganzouri of monopolising power. "As a result, the ministers will have the freedom to do their jobs instead of acting as lackeys to the prime minister," Hammouda told the Weekly.

El-Ganzouri was the head of 17 high-level councils and associations, but the posts were shunned by Ebeid.

"The change makes sense and we should optimistically look ahead," Hammouda said.

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