Egypt Eyes First New Finance Head Since 2018 by Picking Kouchouk

(Bloomberg) -- Egypt is set to name Ahmed Kouchouk as its first new finance minister since 2018, Extranews reported, as the North African nation pledges an economic revamp after emerging from its worst crisis in decades.

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Kouchouk, who most recently served as finance chief Mohamed Maait’s deputy, will be appointed in a wide-ranging government restructuring affecting about 20 portfolios, the Cairo-based broadcaster said Tuesday. The channel, which typically represents authorities’ thinking, cited people it didn’t identify.

The dramatic changes — in the works since Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly was assigned by President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi to form a new government last month — have yet to be made public.

The overhaul comes as calls mount for fresh economic management after Egypt enacted its fourth currency devaluation since early 2022. That move, made possible by a $35 billion megadeal with the United Arab Emirates, helped clinch other financing including an expanded $8 billion International Monetary Fund loan.

Kouchouk, who’s also been a Central Bank of Egypt board member and a senior World Bank economist, is a known figure to investors and will likely be seen as a safe pair of hands, having frequently discussed Egypt’s economy on overseas trips and bond roadshows.

“It’s a good news appointment — well-known and liked by the markets,” said Charlie Robertson, head of macro strategy at emerging market investment firm FIM Partners. “Egypt recognizes the value of continuity and stability, which is also important when a primary goal is to get interest rates down.”

Kouchouk has held several positions in the ministry since 2007, becoming deputy finance minister for fiscal policies and institutional reforms in 2016, and playing a role in IMF negotiations.

The overhaul comes as the Middle East’s most populous country faces challenges ranging from resolving painful power cuts in the midst of a sweltering summer to reducing one of the region’s largest debt burdens, trimming spending and curbing the state’s role in the economy.

Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, who’s been in the role since 2014 and one of the government’s main public faces during the almost nine-month-old Israel-Hamas war, is set to be replaced by Badr Abdelatty, the channel said. The veteran diplomat has served as Egypt’s ambassador to Belgium, Luxembourg and the European Union, according to the state-run Ahram Online news website.

Other reported changes include appointing Sherif Farouk, chairman of Egypt Post, to replace Aly El-Moselhy in the role of supply minister — a job that’s key to managing inflows of commodities for a nation that’s one of the world’s largest wheat importers. The ministries of aviation, justice, housing and religious endowments are also slated for new leadership.

The revamped cabinet, due to be sworn in on Wednesday, will likely see the merging of several portfolios, Extranews said. There will also be the re-introduction of an Investment Ministry headed by Hassan Al-Khatib, it said. More than one deputy prime minister will also be appointed.

--With assistance from Kerim Karakaya and Abdel Latif Wahba.

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