Friday,20 October, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)
Friday,20 October, 2017
Issue 1203, (26 June - 2 July 2014)

Ahram Weekly

7am cabinet

Al-Sisi has called for Egypt to work, and this includes the government, writes Mohamed Salmawy

Al-Ahram Weekly

It was from Islamabad, where I took part in a three-day conference organised by the African-Asian Writers Union, that I followed the swearing-in ceremonies of the new cabinet chosen by President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi. The president scheduled this occasion for 7 in the morning, a true precedent in the history of Egyptian cabinets in which the ministers rarely began work before 10am, well after all other employees in their ministries had arrived at their offices. Most often the swearing-in ceremonies for new cabinet members took place in the afternoon.

The choice of that time delivers a clear and unequivocal message: work in the country is to start in the early-bird hours. Still, it appears that the new ministers can count themselves lucky because the president had given them a two-hour grace period. In one of his speeches before his nomination, he said that he would make people wake up at five to go to work.

Symbolically, Al-Sisi was referring to the sense of discipline that we have come to lack in all aspects of our lives and that we now need more than ever. This applies not just to government offices but also to life in the streets. Take, for example, the recent drive that finally freed the centre of the Egyptian capital from the vendors who had occupied not only pavements but large segments of streets as though there were no government or law to regulate this. No cabinet that, itself, is lax could impose order on that chaos. It took one whose chief personally went out into the field to monitor the work of clearing away that congestion of illegal stalls and merchandise, so as to make way for cars and pedestrians.

I hope that the significance of the fact that the new cabinet was sworn into office at 7am is not lost on the new ministers themselves. They were appointed at a time when the only way a government cabinet can earn merit is through long hours of hard work.

The Egyptian people have high expectations of this government. They are almost hoping for the impossible. So any laxity or remiss in government work will rapidly trigger reactions among this people who have grown accustomed to taking to the streets in order to voice their demands, a phenomenon that, in itself, testified to the failure of executive authorities during recent years to address the people’s needs through the proper institutionalised channels.

Today, we begin a new phase in the life of our country. It is the long-awaited phase of construction, a phase that will require hard and continuous work. We are in a race against time and against the deterioration that has affected every aspect of our lives and that will only grow more acute, if we do not apply every hour of daytime to reversing the decay.

Fortunately for me, there is a two-hour time difference between Cairo and Islamabad. I was therefore able to watch the swearing-in ceremonies at 9am instead of 7am. The new ministers did not have that advantage. May God be with them in the tasks that lie ahead.

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