After last week sudden resignation of Hazem el-Beblawi, the Egyptian Interim President appointed Ibrahim Mahlab as Prime Minister. In a televised speech on Sunday, Egypt´s new Premier unveiled his cabinet composed of 31 ministers and made clear he wants protests in the country to end.
The new cabinet led by Mahlab, a former housing minister, confirms in office 20 incumbent ministers and adds 11 more. Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who is expected to run in the presidential elections next April, was confirmed as defense minister.
Since 2011 Egypt has been repeatedly swept by a wave of protests that led former leader Hosni Mubarak to resign. The elections following in June, 2012 showed a very low voter turnout and brought to power Mohamed Morsi, a quite unknown member of the religiously inspired Muslim Brotherhood party.
President Morsi was forced to resign by the army last July in response to vast protests throughout the country that accused him of neglecting much needed economic reforms and pursuing instead the Muslim Brotherhood´s hidden agenda of turning Egypt into an Islamic republic. Since the ouster of President Morsi and the appointment of el-Beblawi, riots and protests in Egypt’s main cities did not show signs of abating and resulted often in violent street fights, during which the authorities carried out massive clamp-downs on Morsi’s violent supporters.
The street riots and numerous industry-strikes in recent months have dealt a further blow to the already battered Egyptian economy. The turmoil and the attendant instability reduced the country´s economic growth and sharply increased unemployment and poverty. By December, 2013 the Egyptian Pound had lost 19 percent of its value relative to 2010.
The tourism sector, the lifeblood of Egypt´s economy, has witnessed a constant decline since the beginning of the revolutionary events of 2011. By the end of 2013, the inflow of tourists to the country had diminished by a stunning 31 percent compared to the previous year.
To make matters worse, on Feb. 16the Sinai-based jihadist group of “Ansar Beit Al Maqdis” bombed of a bus full of South Korean pilgrims in the Red Sea city of Taba killing four and injuring 17. According to a representative of the Egyptian Center of Economic Studies the attack will have serious repercussions on Red Sea tourism, as the sector is extremely sensitive to security concerns.
In his speech on Sunday, Premier Mahlab said he wants to address social justice demands that were at the root of the January 2011 and June 2013 major uprisings in the country. He also ensured that creating security and fighting terrorism ware at “the top of his cabinet priorities.”
As far as the economic woes of the country are concerned, Mahlabi said he would focus on national development projects, such as the Suez Canal, and would seek a way to balance the economy by creating a business-friendly environment that would restore foreign investments and offer employment opportunities for the youth.
Perhaps the most important message given by the new premier was his intention to create a neutral political climate, stamp out corruption and support the private sector. In order to do so he addressed the people of Egypt urging them to “end any sit-ins, strikes and protests. Let’s begin rebuilding the nation.”
By Stefano Salustri