Egypt’s Morsi Expands Brotherhood Influence in Cabinet

Posted January 6th, 2013 at 1:05 pm (UTC-5)
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Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsi has expanded the number of Muslim Brotherhood ministers in his Cabinet as part of a reshuffle aimed at improving the government's handling of an economic crisis.

Ten Egyptian ministers were sworn in on Sunday, three of them members of Mr. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement. A Brotherhood spokesman said the reshuffle increases the number of Brotherhood Cabinet ministers from five to eight.

Mr. Morsi also appointed a Brotherhood-allied expert in Islamic finance as the new finance minister. El-Morsi Hegazy replaces former finance minister Mumtaz el-Said, whom the Brotherhood had accused of being too close to the Egyptian military, which ruled the country for more than a year before handing power to Mr. Morsi in June.

In another key appointment, Mr. Morsi named a new interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, to replace Ahmed Gamal Eddin, who was criticized for his handling of last month's violent street protests for and against Egypt's new Islamist-backed constitution.

Mr. Morsi promised a Cabinet reshuffle last month as part of a plan to restore confidence in the economy, which has seen a slump in foreign tourism and investment due to political instability since the 2011 ouster of longtime president Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising.

Egypt also has been suffering a currency crisis that has seen the Egyptian pound weaken to eight-year lows against the dollar. Egypt's central bank has spent billions of dollars to support the value of the pound since 2011, leaving its foreign reserves at what it calls a “critical” level. In a report Sunday, the central bank said Egypt's foreign reserves were just above $15 billion in December, a slight decline from the previous month.

Mr. Morsi also is under pressure to raise taxes and introduce other austerity measures in exchange for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. An IMF official is due in Cairo on Monday to discuss terms of the loan with Egyptian officials. Egypt reached a preliminary agreement on the loan in November but delayed finalizing the deal last month as it focussed on dealing with the protests over the constitution.