PM begins consultations for limited cabinet reshuffle

Confusion reigned at the Council of Ministers office on the southern outskirts of Cairo amid reports that limited ministerial and gubernatorial reshuffles were imminent. According to well-informed sources, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif has begun closed-door consultations in advance of the anticipated shake-ups, which they say are likely to affect the ministries of higher education, economic development and transport.

The expected move comes on the heels of Transport Minister Mohammed Mansour’s resignation late last month following a tragic train crash south of Cairo in which 18 people were killed. Minister of Energy and Electricity Hassan Younis was subsequently made acting transport minister until a permanent minister can be appointed. Nazif has so far received three possible candidates for the post, including the president of Cairo’s Ain Shams University, ministry sources revealed.

Council of Ministers Spokesman Magdi Radi declined to discuss the issue with reporters, saying only that Nazif had recently chaired a meeting of the Supreme Council of Urban Planning.

According to high-level sources, there is a desire by some quarters to bring the National Railways Authority (NRA) directly under the control of the cabinet. The NRA has traditionally fallen under the exclusive mandate of the Transport Ministry.

They also say that the Council of Ministers is thinking about assigning the supply and distribution of subsidized bread to the Ministry of Trade and Industry, while bringing social insurance under the auspices of the Ministry of Social Solidarity. The latter ministry might also be put in charge of supervising and regulating the activities of all non-governmental organizations, sources add.

Sources further revealed that Mubarak planned to ask Nazif to conduct a “limited gubernatorial reshuffle” after the conclusion of the ruling National Democratic Party’s sixth general congress, which wrapped up on Monday. They say that a number of regional governors might be promoted to ministerial posts, including those of justice, transport and agriculture. The shake-up might also involve the exchange of sitting governors between northern and southern provinces.

Yesterday, Nazif held a three-hour meeting with Minister of Local Development Abdel Salam Mahgoub, during which the PM heard assessments of provincial governors’ recent performances. Although sources predict a ministerial reshuffle within days, Mahgoub stressed that only President Hosni Mubarak knew if or when a gubernatorial reshuffle was on the cards.

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