Egypt’s finance minister resigns – then changes his mind

Originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald

Egypt’s Finance Minister Hazem el-Beblawi has reversed his decision to quit after the country’s military rulers urged him to stay, capping a day of confusion as officials seek a transition to civilian rule after February’s revolution that ousted Hosni Mubarak.

”It’s more logical for me to stay on,” Mr el-Beblawi said yesterday. ”I resigned for political reasons but I don’t want my resignation to have repercussions on the economy.”

Mr el-Beblawi, who is also deputy prime minister, submitted his resignation on Monday, three months after being appointed. In an earlier interview Mr el-Beblawi, 74 and a Muslim, said that ”the government failed in its main responsibility, which is to provide security, and it should at least acknowledge its failure to give this issue the effort it needed and apologise”.

Any resignation would have been seen as a blow to Egypt’s economy, which is suffering from labour unrest and a loss of tourist revenue, eight months after the revolution. Had he carried through with his resignation, his departure would have delayed and disrupted talks with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for $US5 billion in loans, said Alia Moubayed, senior economist at Barclays Capital in London.

Confusion around Mr el-Beblawi’s resignation and retraction follows growing calls for a broader shake-up of the military-led government and it was the first indication that public anger over the killings – the most severe violence since the revolution and a stark departure from the military’s usual hands-off approach to public protests – had penetrated the highest levels of the government.

The interim Prime Minister, Essam Sharaf, had also offered his resignation to the ruling council but it was not accepted.

New evidence emerged on Tuesday confirming reports that Egyptian soldiers drove over protesters with armoured vehicles and fired live ammunition into a crowd of unarmed Coptic Christians in Cairo on Sunday night. The demonstrators were protesting about a recent attack on a church in southern Egypt.

The Egyptian military has offered condolences but taken no responsibility. It has asked Mr Sharaf to start an investigation.


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