The big news in
Cairo is that a long-awaited cabinet reshuffle has finally become
a reality. President Mohamed Morsy swore
in nine new ministers today in a move that increases the Muslim
Brotherhood's representation in the government. The shakeup comes as Egypt is
deep in talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) about a $4.8 billion
loan intended to help the country jumpstart its stagnant economy.
The IMF talks
mean that the replacement of Egypt's finance minister is the most important
change to come out of the reshuffle. The new finance minister is Fayyad Abdel Moneim,
who previously worked as an economics professor at al-Azhar
University, the oldest Sunni Muslim educational institution in the world.
however, may not have a great deal of experience cutting deals with the IMF.
According to his biography -- published on the
prospectus of an Islamic capital holding where he served as sharia advisor -- Abdel Moneim has made his career
entirely in the insular world of Islamic finance. He received his master's
degree and Ph.D. from al-Azhar University -- his master's thesis tackled the issue of how the money
supply should be organized in Islamic thought, while his Ph.D. thesis addressed
the performance of Islamic banks in Egypt.
The new finance
minister parlayed this knowledge of Islamic finance into a successful career in
the field. He was the manager of the Islamic Research Center in Cairo's
International Islamic Investment and Development Bank, and a consultant to numerous
Islamic banking enterprises. He also conducted research "on the international
economic crises from an Islamic economic perspective," as well as "the economic
roles of the Islamic country in the Prophet's and major eras."
interpretation of sharia forbids
paying interest or engaging in other activities that form the basis for the
modern banking system -- Islamic finance is an effort to align Islamic law with
today's investment practices. Sharia-compliant financial products boomed in
the 2000s, and Islamic finance assets hit
$1.3 trillion in 2011. The growth may be impressive, but Islamic finance is
still a niche field -- the Islamic bond market, for instance, represents
only 0.1 percent of the global bond market.
The IMF has studied
Islamic finance in the past, and some of Egypt's ultra-conservative Salafist
peace with the prospect of an international loan. A deal, therefore, is
still likely possible -- and a government spokesman was quick
to argue that "[t]here will be no impact on the IMF discussions," according
to Bloomberg. But with negotiations
having already dragged out for the entirety of Morsy's term, that may not be