|The former prime minister highlights what the government needs to do to improve Egypt’s future|
|By Nadine El Sayed|
Former Minister of Civil Aviation and Air Force Commander Ahmed Shafik has had a extensive career in aviation. Although the 71-year-old has long held public positions, Shafik became the center of attention when former President Hosni Mubarak appointed him prime minister on January 29, 2011. Shafik remained in this post for a little over a month before submitting his resignation on March 3. Shafik has been commended for his achievements as minister of civil aviation — even by members of the opposition. During his term at the ministry, Shafik introduced major developments in Egyptair and Cairo International Airport, making Egyptair the leading regional carrier and a member of Star Alliance in 2008. The airline’s financials witnessed a turnaround after years of recurring losses. Shafik is known for his iron-clad rule in the ministry. He fired Egyptair’s manager of 22 years, Fahim Rayan, after a plane crashed into a hill in Tunisia in 2002. After Cairo International’s Airport’s director resigned, Shafik hired American consultants to oversee the restructuring project. He allowed foreign investors to acquire a 40% stake in Egyptair, insisting that while selling a national carrier wasn’t an option, partial investments would help develop the business. He also encouraged private and foreign carriers to fly into Egyptian airports other than Cairo International Airport — a move welcomed by the tourism industry. Shafik, however, stipulated that foreign airlines limit their operations inside Egypt, thus allowing the local carrier a near monopoly on domestic flights. Under his tenure, Cairo International Airport was renovated with a number of new terminals including Terminal 3 in 2008, which brought the airport’s annual capacity up to 22 million passengers. Sharm El-Sheikh and Luxor airports were also renovated, with Sharm Airport’s capacity increased to eight million passengers. January 25 Shafik was the last prime minister appointed by Mubarak, replacing Ahmed Nazif on January 29, 2011. He was a controversial candidate for the position as he was considered as a continuation of the old regime. After many controversial statements, and in particular following a heated debate with dentist-turned-novelist Alaa El Aswany on ONTV’s Baladna Bel Masry, Shafik announced his resignation on March 3. Playing down what happened during the televised debate, he later announced that he had already submitted his resignation the morning before the show and had been waiting for the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) to announce it the following day. Shafik has faced a slew of around 40 lawsuits filed against him since January 25, 2011, accusing him of corruption and squandering public funds. He has been accused of handing out airport construction contracts to favored businessmen without offering them in public tenders as required by law. At press time, the state’s prosecution for public funds had opened investigations into the allegations, but none of the lawsuits had made it to court and Shafik has not been summoned for interrogation. He continues to deny all the allegations, describing them as ‘malicious.’ The Presidential Bid Shafik announced his presidential candidacy in November 2011. His announcement came after several visits from supporters who flocked to his house calling for him to run in the upcoming presidential election. His bid, although hailed by many, also stirred opposition from those who refuse to accept any person from the military or the former regime in the race. With Shafik and former Vice President Omar Suleiman in the presidential race (the latter has since been disqualified), Parliament referred the draft political disenfranchisement law to SCAF for approval. If passed, the law would ban any figures from the previous regime from engaging in politics for a period of 10 years. Shafik’s experience has been a double-edged sword: Many of his supporters hail his military background and achievements at the Ministry of Civil Aviation, while his opponents label him a remnant of the previous regime. Shafik is running as an independent, with no affiliations to any political parties. His economic agenda is considered neoliberal. He refrains from talking about SCAF but contends that he isn’t backed by them. Notable Achievements In addition to his master’s and PhD, Shafik has received several fellowships from military colleges in Egypt and Paris. He holds a master’s degree in military sciences, a PhD in the national strategy of outer space and a diploma in Islamic studies. Shafik has been awarded various military decorations, including first-class honors of the Republic Military, the Military Bravery, Military Training, Military Duty, Distinguished Service and April 25 Decorations. He was also awarded the Longevity, Army Day, Sixth of October, Anniversary of the Revolution, and Kuwait Liberation medals.