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Published: Tuesday June 17, 2014 MYT 1:47:25 AM
Updated: Tuesday June 17, 2014 MYT 1:47:25 AM

Egypt's new govt adds investment minister, other changes

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mehleb appointed veteran banker Ashraf Salman as investment minister on Monday in a limited cabinet reshuffle that also replaced the foreign and international cooperation ministers.

Former ambassador to Washington Sameh Shukri was appointed foreign minister while Naglaa El Ahwany, a university professor who last served as the head of Mehleb's office, was named minister for international cooperation, the state-run news website al-Ahram said.

Newly elected President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi re-appointed Mehleb as prime minister last week and asked him to form a government.

The full cabinet list showed most other ministers are holdovers from the previous 31-member cabinet, including the ministers for finance, defence, interior, planning, oil, electricity, supplies and communications.

Keeping the cabinet largely intact could allow Sisi to implement quickly the types of reform urged by the United Arab Emirates, which along with Saudi Arabia and Kuwait gave billions of dollars in aid after Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was ousted by the army last July.

The decision to appoint a separate investment minister reverses a decision this year to merge the ministry with that of industry and trade, a move that could help Sisi attract foreign funds back to stimulate an economy racked by years of political turmoil.

INVESTMENT BANKER

Salman, a U.S.-educated investment banker is the co-founder and co-CEO of Cairo Financial Holding, an Egyptian asset management, corporate finance and investment banking firm. He previously held a senior position at Arab African International Bank-Egypt and has worked on privatisation policies, according to the Cairo Financial Holding website. Karim Helal, chairman of Abu Dhabi International Bank's Egypt division, called Salman's appointment "very appropriate". "He knows how to talk to investors, knows what their problems are and what they need," he said, adding that Salman was the first person from the investment banking field ever appointed to the post.

The new cabinet includes Mahfouz Sabr as minister of justice, a dossier with scores of cases against supporters of Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood.

More than a thousand alleged Brotherhood supporters were sentenced to death this year for charges related to violence that followed the army's ousting of Mursi following mass protests against his rule.

Three Al Jazeera journalists have been on trial for months in a separate case on charges of supporting the Brotherhood, which the state designated a "terrorist organisation".

Mehleb appointed Laila Iskander, formerly a minister for environmental affairs, to the new position of minister for slums. Millions of poor Egyptians in Cairo and other cities live in informal settlements that lack basic infrastructure.

BREAD SUBSIDIES CORRUPTION

Supplies Minister Khaled Hanafi, appointed in the last cabinet reshuffle, is staying in his post. Hanafi has been outspoken about the changes needed to a corrupt and wasteful bread subsidies system that is largely responsible for the government’s 32 billion Egyptian pound food imports bill. He has pledged to complete nationwide rollout of a smart card system for monitoring consumption of subsidised bread in the next few months.

Sisi reappointed Mehleb as premier last week, but the formation of the new government was delayed on Sunday after candidates turned down offers for the ministries of investment, justice, culture and information.

Since the 2011 overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, several people have rejected cabinet jobs for fear of opening themselves to potential legal complaints after a number of former ministers were charged with corruption or taking decisions which were not in the national interest.

Cabinet spokesman Hossam El-Kawish said the ministers would be sworn in on Tuesday.

(Addiitonal reporting by Mostafa Hashem, Yasmine Saleh, Maggie Fick and Shadia Nasralla; Editing by Tom Heneghan)

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