A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Egypt's New Prime Minister is Very Old Establishment Indeed

Ibrahim Mehleb has been named as Egypt's new Prime Minister.

Egypt's new Prime Minister-Designate is not a new face. He was Housing Minister in the outgoing Cabinet, but he has been a senior figure in the Mubarak-era establishment. In the eyes of many of the young revolutionaries he will probably been seen as a classic member of the fallul, the "remnants," of the old regime. An engineer by training, he was a member of the Policies Committee of the now-disbanded (except for all the still-influential members) National Democratic Party; he served on the Shura Council (the Upper House) under Mubarak. But perhaps more important, he spent 11 years as Chairman of the Board of The Arab Contractors (Osman Ahmed Osman & Co.).

If that means little to you, I'm guessing you've never set foot in Egypt. The Arab Contractors is not just the biggest construction company in Egypt, but one of the largest in the Arab World. It has had a hand in almost every construction project in Egypt from the Aswan High Dam under Nasser to the new version of the Library of Alexandria. It was founded by Osman Ahmed Osman. Though the Osman family lost control of the company to the government in 2001, Osman, who died in 1999, had built it up through one of the classic examples of what has been called crony capitalism, benefiting from friends in high places. Already influential under Nasser, he was a personal friend of Anwar Sadat and welcomed Sadat's infitah or economic opening; the alliance was further cemented when Osman's son married Sadat's daughter. Throughout the Mubarak era, the company enjoyed a role in almost every major construction project. The company owns a soccer team, The Arab Contractors (their home is Osman Ahmed Osman Stadium).

It was this company that Mehleb served as its Chairman of the Board for 11 years. Definitely not a new face.

1 comment:

David Mack said...

Why am I not surprised? The only shock to my analysis of three years ago ("Hold the Applause") on the Foreign Policy web site is that it has all happened so soon.