Shafiq says cabinet’s priority is to restore order, boost the economy

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CAIRO: Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said in the first press conference after President Mubarak’s ouster on Sunday that cabinet is functioning as usual and reporting to the Supreme Council of Armed Forces.

He confirmed that the economy is stable for now, but warned that the situation is bound to deteriorate if protests continued, emphasizing the need to restore law and order and for people to go back to work.

Promising accountability and transparency, he also expressed his disgruntlement about the tens of protests breaking out all over the country demanding salary increases.

“The world looked at us with respect and many ambassadors I’ve met recently promised to help us rebuild our country with loans and grants. What happened in Tahrir was all positive for the future, but enough, let’s not lose the respect of the world.”

“We’re at a dangerous crossroads,” he said, again emphasizing that if businesses close down, unemployment can only increase to everyone’s detriment.

According to statistics published by Credit Agricole Bank, Egypt lost $310 million a day over since protests for political change began on Jan. 25.

Asked about the guarantees that the government will deliver its promises of economic and political reform, Shafiq said that there were no guarantees: “There are no guarantees. I have no time frame in which to deliver all these demands, but what I promise is that all the necessary procedures will be taken.”

He denied any knowledge of an order to freeze Mubarak’s assets abroad, saying that this has nothing to do with his job as Prime Minister. He said, however, that to his knowledge Mubarak was still in Sharm El-Sheikh, when asked about his whereabouts.

Regarding the issue of political detainees, Shafiq promised to oversee swift steps to free them all, following a comment by Interior Minister Mahmoud Wagdy that the number does not exceed 1,000.

Human rights organizations have repeatedly claimed that political detainees exceed 20,000.

Finance Minister Samir Radwan, who also spoke at the press conference, said that he is coordinating with the health and interior ministers to come up with a final roster of victims martyred during the revolution and promised a state pension to all their families.

Regarding Vice President Omar Suleiman, Shafiq says that his role in government is yet to be decided by the ruling military council.

Regarding the vacancy of the informantion minister position, Shafiq floated the name of media mogul Emad Adib as a possible candidate, “even though Adib doesn’t believe, we should have a ministry of information.”

Responding to a question by Daily News Egypt regarding the constitutional reform panel, Shafiq said that the panel is indeed at work and that it has expanded and may include more constitutional reforms than previously outlined.

However, he was unclear about the process of debating and applying these reforms in the absence of a functioning parliament.

In a statement Sunday, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces which took over after 18 days of protests ended Mubarak’s 30-year rule, dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution, promising a referendum on constitutional amendments.


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