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The insiders: ministry officials who finally got the big job - Daily News Egypt

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The insiders: ministry officials who finally got the big job

The last article in the Hesham Qandil's cabinet-examining series, by Ahmed Aboul Enein

Egypt's Prime Minister Hisham Qandil  (AFP PHOTO)
Egypt’s Prime Minister Hisham Qandil

This article is the fifth and final instalment in a series that examines the composition of the Qandil cabinet with a close look at the allegiances and alliances within.

Regional governors and high ranking employees of public sector companies are not the only government insiders Prime Minister Hesham Qandil appointed to his cabinet.

In addition to these technocrats with ties to the former regime, Qandil has also made eight appointments from within the ministries themselves, essentially promoting a group of bureaucrats to the top job.

Long time Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Faiza Abou EL-Naga, who held the post for almost eleven years, was replaced by Ashraf El-Araby, who was the supervisor of Abou El-Naga’s technical office.

Like his predecessor, El-Araby will head both the planning and the international cooperation ministries at the same time. He issued a statement upon his appointment praising the outgoing minister, a stalwart of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, saying that filling her shoes would be a challenge.

El-Araby is a trained economist, receiving his bachelor’s and master’s degree in economics from Cairo University before getting his PhD, also in economics, from Kansas State University. Upon his return to Egypt he was hired as an economic expert in the National Planning Institute before being promoted to advisor for the Ministry of Planning and supervisor of its technical office.

Clearly a one track bureaucrat, El-Araby has no known political affiliation and was hired on the virtue of being an insider of the ministry. Unlike Abou El-Naga who was a career diplomat and thus focused more on her international cooperation portfolio, El-Araby will likely pay more attention to the planning ministry, being an insider. It is unclear why Qandil decided to continue with the tradition of hiring one minister to handle both.

The new Minister of Civil Aviation, Samir Embaby, is another promoted ministerial advisor. Embaby was the Middle East regional manager of Egypt Air in Saudi Arabia before being appointed advisor for airline affairs to the previous civil aviation minister last march.

He was appointed after the rest of the cabinet took the oath of office in front of President Mohamed Morsy because Qandil had to change his choice for the post several times due to protests rejecting his other choices inside the ministry. Embaby is the first civilian to be appointed a minister in the history of the ministry.

Qandil has also appointed another insider to the Ministry of Irrigation and Water Resources as his successor. The new minister, Mohamed Bahaa El-Din, is a former deputy minister at the ministry and before that he was head of the Irrigation Authority, the ministry’s most important sector. Prior to that he held several other key roles in the ministry since 2002 and upon his retirement in 2007, Bahaa El-Din, 65, was made general coordinator of the national plan for irrigation and water resources.

Hisham Zaazou, the new Minister of Tourism, is also a long-time senior employee at the ministry. Zaazou was appointed as first assistant minister in 2008, a position he kept until his own appointment as tourism minister,by former minister Zoheir Garana, now in prison over corruption charges.

Originally an accountant, Zaazou travelled to the United States in 1980 where he started a company specialisin in tourism to Egypt before returning three years later to head the company’s Egyptian branch. He became manager of the Egyptian Union of Tourism Chambers in 2004 and then assistant to the tourism minister in 2007 before his promotion to first assistant in 2008.

Keeping with the trend of hiring insiders, Salah Abdel-Momen is the third agriculture minister in the past three years to be chosen from within the ranks of the Agricultural Research Centre which operates as part of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation.

He has worked all his life in the ministry, joining the Plant Pathology Research Institute from 1984 until 2007 when he became the institute’s president before being appointed vice president of the Agricultural Research Centre and subsequently its president.
Having spent all of his life as an agricultural scientist with no political background, it is unclear how Abdel-Momen will be able to formulate sound policies in the areas of food, crops, use of pesticides, cotton farming or land reclamation.

Minister of Investment Osama Saleh comes in to lead a ministry that was initially scraped following the 25 January 2011 uprising that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak. Saleh has been the head of the Investment Authority since 2009 when former Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif appointed him. He was also made assistant minister to the former minister, Mahmoud Mohi El-Din.

Following the ministry’s cancellation, Saleh has found himself limited as to what he can do as head of the Investment Authority. The ministry being brought back signals President Mohamed Morsy’s inclination to focus on domestic and international investment as part of a wider free market-based economic system. Saleh, who has previously worked in banking and retail financing, will feel comfortable working in this neo-liberal framework.

The new minister has recently come under fire from human rights organisations for making statements where he threatened to take action against private television stations that “spread lies” through handing out warnings and fines, even revoking their operating licences and shutting them down.

One choice that Qandil was heavily criticised for was his Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Hany Mahmoud. The new minister was made head of the Information and Decision Support Centre following the uprising after the previous head of the centre, Maged Othman, was made communications minister.

Mahmoud was then appointed head of the Egyptian Mail Authority, a job he lasted in for only three months. The mail authority employees held several sit-ins and demonstrations calling for his removal and eventually got their way. They accused Mahmoud of corruption after he hired several figures from the now disbanded former ruling National Democratic Party such as Aly Meselhy, Alaa Fahmy and Ashraf Zaki in key advisory roles within the mail authority and with large salaries.

Egyptian Mail Authority workers have threatened to hold sit-ins and demonstrations in front of the cabinet office protesting Mahmoud’s most recent appointment.

Mohamed Mostafa Hamed, the new Minister of Health and Population, rounds up the list of insiders in Qandil’s cabinet. Hamed, a physician, is a familiar face at the health ministry. He was appointed as head of the Specialised Medical Centres sector at the ministry by Mubarak’s health minister Hatem El-Gabaly in 2006 and remained in his position until 2011 after the uprising when he was removed due to protests by ministry workers.

While the collection of ministry insiders, government bureaucrats, and ministers continuing their roles from former Prime Minister Kamal El-Ganzouri’s cabinet is presented to the public as a group of independent technocrats that make up the majority in the government with only a minority Islamist representation, the reality is that there are only two ministers out of 35 in Qandil’s cabinet who are actually independents.

Minister of Transport Mohamed Rashad is an engineer specialising in roads and traffic, and Minister of Education Ibrahim Ghonim, who holds a PhD in education, specialises in curriculum. Both men have no political affiliations and have never worked inside government.

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