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New finance minister needs to ‘move forward’, says expert

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CAIRO: Executive Director of the Egyptian Center for Economic Studies, Magda Kandil said that although finance minister Samir Radwan resigned, the fiscal year budget is still in place, highlighting the importance of “moving forward” with economic reform plans.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf accepted Radwan’s resignation on Sunday, replacing him with deputy and economic adviser Hazem El-Beblawi, who is currently an adviser to the Arab Monetary Fund in Abu Dhabi.

Taking into consideration recent events, Kandil pointed out Radwan had been operating in “constrained times.”

“We cannot attach his performance to specific policies delivered under his watch, he was an instrument in the political process, he delivered in the context of this process,” said Kandil.

However, Kandil pointed out that she had taken issue with the deficit outlined in the new 2011-2012 fiscal year budget that has already been approved by the ruling military council.

“The most important thing to do now is to move forward with the process, I hope the new economy minister and the economic chain will help us move forward and also capitalize on our donor funds in order to effectively mobilize them.”

“There is a high consumption of spending without providing the required space and a lack of transparency in terms of the healing measures for this in the budget,” said Kandil. “There was also a lack of reform in some of the items that have been included within the budget from the previous regime.”

Beblawi, 74, received his doctorate from the University of Paris in 1964. He worked as an economics professor at the University of Alexandria until 1980; he was also the former executive secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

In an attempt to placate protesters demanding faster reform five months after a popular revolt toppled ex-president Mubarak, Sharaf announced last week he would reshuffle the cabinet and take all necessary measures to meet protesters’ “justified” demands.

Radwan, who was appointed shortly before ousted president Hosni Mubarak was forced to leave power, told Reuters, "I have submitted my resignation to the military council and to the prime minister. They have accepted it with regret."

"People don’t know what they want. Do they want increased expenditure and no borrowing from abroad? Everybody has suddenly become an expert on financial policy. That is not an atmosphere conducive to efficient work," he added.

For nine consecutive days, thousands of Egyptians have been camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and several other cities across the country including Alexandria, Suez City, Al-Arish and Sharm El Sheikh.

Protesters have been calling out for “true change” accusing the ruling military council of not taking the revolution seriously, demanding the removal of current Commander of the Armed Forces and de facto president Mohamed Hussein Tantawy.

Abdullah Saadawy, among the activists who has been spending nights in Tahrir said that their strikes and protests have been putting pressure on the current government which will now be forced to hasten reform.

"There is a lot of pressure on the armed forces and the current Cabinet," said Saadawy. "Sharaf is a good candidate, but he has a weak personality he shouldn’t have accepted these conditions over the past four months, their current Cabinet changes are proof of this."

Saadawy added that protesters will continue their sit-in until all their demands are met, hoping that the army would announce that they will put an end to military tribunals for civilians.

 

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