Egypt changes finance minister in reshuffle

Reuters News
|
Posted: Jul 17, 2011 9:04 AM
Egypt changes finance minister in reshuffle

By Edmund Blair

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt picked a new finance minister on Sunday as part of a cabinet reshuffle demanded by protesters camped out in central Cairo, and the outgoing minister said policy-making had become "confused."

Samir Radwan, the outgoing minister, will be replaced by Hazem el-Beblawi, who was picked on Saturday as an economic adviser and one of two deputies to Prime Minister Essam Sharaf.

"Goodbye. The rest will soon follow," one Egyptian, Mohamed Essam, wrote on the cabinet's website. Another, Abou Hanafy, wrote on Twitter: "Let the season of resignations begin."

Sharaf has yet to announce his new cabinet although the ministers of finance, industry and foreign affairs have already quit. He promised change after protesters took to the streets accusing the government of moving too slowly with reforms.

Egyptians drove Hosni Mubarak from power on February 11, but many are frustrated that the army council has not moved faster to reform the system and purge the former president's officials. Radwan was appointed shortly before Mubarak left office.

Protests in Cairo and other cities have been going on for more than a week.

The justice, interior, education, culture and information ministers were expected to stay, the official news agency said.

"I have submitted my resignation to the military council and to the prime minister. They have accepted it with regret," the outgoing finance minister told Reuters, adding that Beblawi would take on the role.

He said the policy-making situation had become "confused," adding that he believed the best solution was to "leave the way for somebody to handle it in a consistent and coherent manner."

"People don't know what they want. Do they want increased expenditure and no borrowing from abroad? Everybody has suddenly become an expert on financial policy. That is not an atmosphere conducive to efficient work," Radwan said.

Radwan had negotiated a $3 billion loan facility from the International Monetary Fund to help cope with a spiraling budget deficit.

But after reaching a deal, Egypt said in June it no longer needed the money. Radwan said the budget had been revised to cut the deficit in response to demands from a national dialogue and concerns in the ruling military council about building up debts.

Economists have questioned some of the assumptions in the latest revision of the country's budget.

Industry Minister Samir el-Sayyad also quit, the official news agency reported. Foreign Minister Mohammed el-Orabi, in office for less than a month, said he was quitting on Saturday.

Sharaf had announced he had picked two deputies on Saturday, including Beblawi, 74, an adviser to the Arab Monetary Fund in Abu Dhabi and who will now also take on the finance portfolio.

"The first thing Beblawi needs to do is to reflect some confidence in his decisions, empowered by the legitimacy of the military council, and he has to think a bit like investors," Mohamed Seddiek, head of research at Prime Securities.

"Samir Radwan was not really confident of what he was doing regarding investments and the stock market. Whatever decision he took, you saw the market gradually retreating," he added.

Beblawi received a doctorate from the University of Paris in 1964 and worked as professor of economics at the University of Alexandria until 1980.

He was then chief executive of the state Export Development Bank of Egypt and executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

(Additional reporting by Shaimaa Fayed, Yasmine Saleh, Patrick Werr and Tom Pfeiffer; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Jon Hemming)