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Opinion: Egypt’s new PM is a big disappointment

Egypt president morsi has a tight window on economy. Photo: AP

Egypt now has a president and a prime minister neither of whom have significant experience in finance at a time when the economy is on its knees, running on foreign reserves worth barely three months of imports

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July 25, 2012 9:31 by



Egypt’s new prime minister is a big disappointment. After a three-week wait, the decision by Muslim Brotherhood-backed President Mohamed Mursi to appoint a little-known water minister to the top job suggests that nobody qualified to fix Egypt’s troubled economy wanted the role.

Hisham Kandil is not a name that rings bells amongst Egypt’s financial elite. He was a senior figure in the water ministry until being promoted to run the department last year in the interim cabinet supported by the army. Mursi’s office says Kandil is not a member of any political party, implying the appointment goes some way to fulfilling a promise for an inclusive government. Kandil’s beard, however, has meant he has had to deny links to any Islamist groups.

Egypt now has a president and a prime minister neither of whom have significant experience in finance at a time when the economy is on its knees, running on foreign reserves worth barely three months of imports. Mursi’s low-profile choice of PM suggests the rest of the cabinet appointments, including that of the finance minister, could be equally uninspiring and may feature more faces from the current crop of ministers which the Brotherhood has sought to overhaul.

It’s not hard to see why the more financially credible candidates on the mooted long-list may have refused. With no constitution, the new prime minister lacks a job description and will be pulled one way then another in the ongoing power struggle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military. That said, a well-known figure may have been able to mediate skillfully between the two sides.

For Egypt, this is a setback on an already long road to recovery. The country badly needs significant and politically sensitive economic reforms. Egypt has a young population. A fourfold increase in economic growth is required to create enough employment for the current level of new entrants into the workplace. The government can still draw on outside experts to help. But with the responsibility now in the hands of an engineer, water expert, and military chief, Egypt has good reason to be skeptical.

(The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own)



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