President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi reshuffled his government on Wednesday, naming nine new ministers and creating a new portfolio for business but leaving the key ministries of defense, foreign affairs or interior untouched.
The most important changes in the widely anticipated reshuffle came in the portfolios of investment, finance, tourism and water resources. El-Sissi swore in the new ministers at the al-Ittihadiyah palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, according to state television.
The changes come at a time when Egypt under el-Sissi is facing a host of seemingly intractable problems, primarily an economy reeling from five years of unrest that has led to a severe slump in the vital tourism sector. They also follow the recent devaluation by nearly 15 percent of the country’s weakening currency, a move that led to a surge in prices. Egyptian security forces are meanwhile embroiled in a dilapidating fight against Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula who are proving to be tenacious while growing deadlier.
The reshuffle is the first since September, when el-Sissi named Sherif Ismail prime minister, his second premier since he took office in 2014 following his landslide election victory.
Egyptian authorities rarely share with the public the reasons behind sacking government ministers, prompting media speculation and uncertainty. However, Wednesday’s replacements appeared to highlight the troubles faced by Egypt in some sectors. Reflecting efforts to revive the country’s ailing economy is the creation of a new business sector portfolio, which will be mandated with encouraging and shepherding small start-ups.
The investment and finance ministers were also fired, both replaced by candidates plucked from the private sector.
The replacement of the water minister follows the lack of any tangible progress in drawn-out negotiations between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of a massive dam on the Nile by the Horn of Africa nation that will most likely affect Cairo’s vital share of the river’s water.
Naming a new minister for civil aviation comes less than five months after a Russian airliner crashed over the Sinai Peninsula shortly after taking off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm, el-Sheikh. Russia said the crash, which killed all 224 people on board, was caused by an explosive device and the Sinai affiliate of the extremist Islamic State group claimed responsibility for downing the plane. Responding to charges of lax security and negligence at its airports, Egypt has since tightened checks at airports and hired a British-based company to train Egyptian staff on airport security.
The Oct. 31 crash decimated Egypt’s already slumping tourism, with Russia suspending all flights to Egypt and Britain halting flights to Sharm el-Sheikh. The tourism and antiquities ministers were also replaced Wednesday.