Egypt's cabinet meets to talk security, economics

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 18, 2011 4:54 PM
Egypt's cabinet meets to talk security, economics

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's new cabinet, led by Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, met on Wednesday for the first time putting efforts to return security to Egypt's streets and reviving the country's economy at the top of the agenda.

Sharaf, who came to office after a purge of officials linked to ousted President Hosni Mubarak, said on Monday he would work to get Egypt's economy back on its feet after weeks of protests and political turmoil.

The cabinet adjourned its meeting for an emergency session with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces by noon, a cabinet source said, without providing further details.

The ministers agreed to put Egypt's wheat-buyer General Authority for Supplying Commodities (GASC), the General Authority for Free Zone and Investment (GAFI), and the country's consumer protection agency under the Social Solidarity Ministry.

Analysts said the new government would have to tread a fine line as it works to meet the high expectations of newly empowered Egyptian workers while restarting an economy that nearly ground to a halt during weeks of protests.

The cabinet is to discuss how to bring back investment and tourism to Egypt, as well the resumption of universities and schools, many of which remain closed since Mubarak was toppled from power, the state news agency MENA said.

Many Egyptian policemen remain reluctant to return to duty, fearing attacks by citizens still angry over clashes between demonstrators and security forces during the uprising that led to the deaths of over 380 people.

Amid the lack of security, Egyptians complain about being terrorized by outlaws who carry out thefts, armed attacks on citizens and property and even breaking into elementary schools. They have asked the military to impose tougher punishments on those responsible.

The cabinet approved changing the penal code to impose harsher punishments on thugs and other outlaws terrorizing the public, which could involve a death sentence for some crimes.

General Masnour el-Essawy, the new interior minister, has said his main priority is to redeploy police forces across the country and is now studying a plan to restructure the security apparatus to give it credibility. (Reporting by Dina Zayed and Ashraf Badr; Editing by Sophie Hares)