Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has now formed a new government after the previous cabinet resigned on 12 September amid a corruption probe. Local media, which is largely state-controlled, focused its criticisms squarely on now-former prime minister Ibrahim Mehleb and his cabinet, sparing El-Sissi of any such allegations. The breaking point may have come in July when Mehleb told the country’s youth that they should consider driving ‘tuk-tuks’, or motorized rickshaws, instead of counting on government jobs.
El-Sissi has tapped his former oil minister, Sherif Ismail, to lead the new government. Ismail’s expertise in the petroleum industry surely factored into the decision. Two weeks ago Eni, the Italian energy giant, discovered an enormous gas field off Egypt’s coast. It may be the largest ever found in the Mediterranean Sea, and according to Eni it “will…transform the energy scenario of Egypt”. Energy analysts speculate that this could be the first of a series of large fields to be found off Egypt’s shores in the coming years.
The IMF, which just finalized its annual review of Egypt in mid-September, concluded that Egypt must further reduce energy subsidies to fortify its fiscal position. Mr. Ismail already made progress on this front as energy chief when the government partially lifted its petrol subsidies in July 2014, leading to an 80% price rise at the pump. Further cuts will require political will from above, and support from below.
Photo : Associated Press