CAIRO: President Hosni Mubarak resumed his responsibilities from Sharm El-Sheikh on Thursday morning, chairing his first cabinet meeting since undergoing surgery in Germany last month, according to state television.
In less than one minute of footage, Mubarak appeared chairing the ministerial meeting. His last television appearance was on March 27 after he returned from Germany, where he removed his gall bladder and a growth on the small intestine.
He has been convalescing since in the Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh, triggering speculation over his frail health.
State TV only aired the footage of the 9 am meeting in its 2 pm news report, leaving journalists and political analysts wary of Mubarak’s physical wellness.
“This resembles an inexperienced management, Emad Gad of Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies told Daily News Egypt in the morning.
Gad explained that the “recurrent lack of transparency creates confusion among Egyptians.
“All Egyptians know that he [President Mubarak] is convalescing, so they have doubts about his health. Why are they making them have more doubts?
Discussing President Mubarak’s health has always been a taboo in Egypt. However, his last trip to Heidelberg, Germany has been openly discussed in the media and by government officials.
Questions about Mubarak’s health are closely linked to the question of succession in Egypt, as the 81-year-old ends his fifth term next year.
“We were all impatient for this meeting, which shows that the president has resumed his duties completely, the official MENA news agency quoted Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif as saying.
After the meeting, Nazif announced that Mubarak raised the annual social raise for the year 2010/11 to 10 percent, instead of a 7 percent increase previously suggested by his ministers.
The meeting included Finance Minister Youssef Botrous-Ghali, Minister of Social Development Osman Ahmed Osman, Housing Minister Ahmed El-Maghrabi and Chief of Staff Zakaria Azmy.
In the meeting, Mubarak reportedly discussed the state budget, urging ministers to reinforce basic services and continue to support low-income citizens.
On state television, Nazif said that indicators show that the economy is recovering from the crisis, pointing to gains in non-petroleum exports and tourism.
Egypt recorded a 20 percent increase in non-petroleum exports and tourism rates have rebounded, returning to its pre-crisis state, according to Nazif.
Ghali said that Mubarak also discussed the new laws of insurance and pensions, which are to be implemented as of January 2012.
Mubarak also sent a message to his Sudanese counterpart Omar Al-Bashir regarding ongoing water-sharing negotiations between the Nile Basin countries. -With agencies