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Imminent cabinet reshuffle
Published in Al-Ahram Weekly on 25 - 01 - 2017

Informed parliamentary sources have told Al-Ahram Weekly that Prime Minister Sherif Ismail is putting the final touches to a limited cabinet reshuffle. It is expected to involve at least eight ministers out of 33.
Sources say six service portfolio ministers — education, higher education, health, local development, agriculture, and supply — and two economic portfolio ministers, are expected to lose their jobs. Some private newspapers have also reported that Minister of Interior Magdi Abdel-Ghaffar is to be replaced. Under Article 146 of the 2014 constitution, the president of the republic has sole authority to appoint the four sovereign portfolios of defence, interior, foreign affairs and justice.
On Monday Al-Ahram reported government sources as saying “the group of cabinet ministers responsible for economic portfolios was scheduled to meet on Sunday but the meeting was postponed until the cabinet reshuffle is officially announced soon.”
Responsibility for economic and budgetary portfolios is divided between the Finance Ministry, the Planning Ministry, the International Cooperation Ministry, the Trade and Industry Ministry, the Public Enterprise Ministry and the Investment Ministry.
Ismail told reporters on Sunday that consultations are already under way and he hopes to be able to present a final list of new cabinet appointments to President Abdel-Fattah Al-Sisi by the end of this week. Ismail, who has only shuffled his cabinet once — in March 2016 — said the names of new ministers will be also submitted to parliament.
Ismail's statement came after Al-Sisi told the editors-in-chief of the country's three national daily newspapers on 17 January that “a cabinet reshuffle is expected very soon.”
Under Article 147 of the constitution the president may exempt the government from carrying out its tasks if a majority of MPs in parliament approves, and can introduce a limited cabinet reshuffle after consulting with the prime minister and gaining the support of two thirds of MPs in the House of Representatives.
Al-Ahram cited unnamed sources as saying some cabinet portfolios are to be merged for budgetary reasons. “The civil aviation and tourism portfolios will be merged into one, as will the antiquities and culture portfolios and the manpower and immigration portfolios into one,” claimed the newspaper.
Al-Ahram also revealed that the reshuffle would be officially announced by the first week of February at the latest to allow “supervisory and watchdog apparatuses” to finalise their scrutiny of new ministers.
The reshuffle comes amid growing criticism, in the media and from MPs, that Ismail's government is floundering.
Mohamed Fouad, an MP affiliated with Al-Wafd newspaper, told the Weekly that “the government of Sherif Ismail is acting in isolation and without any consultation with parliament.”
“They signed a strategic economic reform programme with the IMF without consulting with MPs or informing them of the details of the agreement,” said Fouad.
Fouad said that when MPs approved the Ismail government's policy statement last March they did so on condition that the government policy be reviewed by MPs at four monthly intervals.
“This never happened. The government apparently prefers to act alone,” says Fouad.
The Wafd Party says it is pressing for Ismail himself to be dismissed.
“He is a colourless technocrat who does not understand that good politics means fruitful cooperation between the government and parliament,” says Fouad.
Many MPs also complain that the prime minister's refusal to come to parliament to answer questions has led other cabinet ministers to follow suit and ignore requests from parliamentary committees to explain their programmes in detail. MPs told Parliament Speaker Ali Abdel-Aal this week that Agriculture Minister Essam Fayed has ignored three invitations to attend meetings of the Agriculture and Irrigation Committee.
MPs also complain that Mohamed Ali Al-Moselhi, the former army general appointed as minister of supply in October, has failed to control the price of basic commodities.
“Al-Moselhi arrived with no strategy capable of mitigating the inflationary effects of the devaluation of the Egyptian pound on commodities such as sugar, oil and rice which are indispensable for the majority of ordinary Egyptians,” says Fouad.
MPs have long called for the resignation of Minister of Education Al-Hilali Al-Sherbini. Demands he be dismissed were first voiced in the summer when national high school exams were leaked on social media. Al-Sherbini's recent decision to introduce a new examination booklet was heavily criticised by MPs and provoked a number of protests among students.
Health Minister Ahmed Emadeddin Radi has been under fire from the Pharmacists Syndicate which has threatened to hold a nationwide strike after the ministry announced modest price increases for 3,000 medicines at a time when the supply of drugs is in crisis.
In a plenary session on 18 January MPs accused the Ismail government of “exporting crises to parliament”.
“While the courts have ruled that the Egyptian-Saudi maritime border demarcation agreement should be annulled the government surprised everybody by referring it to parliament,” said one MP.
MPs were particularly enraged when Ismail submitted a draft law this week raising the prime minister's monthly salary from LE30,000 to LE42,000 and the salaries of the prime minister's deputies, cabinet ministers and provincial governors from LE20,000 to LE35,000. The draft law also states that members of the government will receive 80 per cent of their salaries when they reach retirement age.
Independent MP and deputy chairman of parliament's Manpower Committee Gamal Al-Okabi told the Weekly that “while MPs were expecting an increase in the salaries of state employees so they might meet the increased costs of living we were surprised that the government, which appears to live in a permanent coma, wants the salaries of the prime minister, cabinet ministers and provincial governors to be increased.”
“Many state employees receive only LE1,500 per month yet what we are seeing are members of a government which calls for belt-tightening seeking to have their own salaries and pensions dramatically increased,” complained Al-Okabi.
When MPs asked speaker Abdel-Aal in the 18 January session to allow parliament a vote of confidence in the government Abdel-Aal responded: “Let us wait because the government might withdraw quietly by itself instead of parliament moving to withdraw confidence from it.”

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