New military production minister: Could the army’s economic policy change?

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Major General Mohamed Ahmed Morsi took the constitutional oath before General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, becoming the new Minister of Military Production in Egypt, succeeding General Mohamed Said el-Assar who died on July 6 2020. Morsi worked as director of the vehicle’s arms in the former armed forces, and as an assistant minister of defence, before he was chosen as the general manager of the Arab Organisation for Industrialisation under the current chairman of the board, General Abdel Moneim al-Terras.

The Presidency of the Republic in Egypt announced the death of al-Assar on the evening of July 6. By this announcement the era of al-Assar as a minister has ended, after he made a major change in the areas undertaken by the Ministry of Military Production in Egypt. Under al-Assar, the Ministry of Military Production became, during the past few years, an essential partner and even has a monopoly over many industries and civil investments. For decades the ministry’s primary mission was to manufacture equipment, weapons and military ammunition that the Egyptian armed forces need.

Ministry of Military Production

It has become noticeable that the role of the Military Production Ministry has increased recently. Any observer can read the ministry’s data on its mandate to prepare the baking system for the Ministry of Supply. It has also announced the implementation of construction and raising the efficiency of sports fields, squares, various youth centres, swimming pools, and gyms.

The Ministry of Military Production has also entered the field of local development, by establishing waste recycling plants, and by qualifying and raising the efficiency of automated slaughterhouses in the governorates, in addition to paving roads in various governorates.

The ministry also made huge investments that are announced by the ministry after they sign cooperation protocols with other ministries, which raises questions over the role of military production and its control over the civil field, which is the task of other service ministries such as education, health, and endowments.

Huge investment

By reading into the details of the numbers, projects and cooperation protocols announced by the Ministry of Military Production in the period from 2014 to 2020, it is easy to discover the extent of control that the ministry imposed on the various sectors of the country with a clear marginalisation of the role of other ministries.

The military ministry announced that it had participated in the implementation of 125 projects in the country for the benefit of the civilian ministries, governorates and various state bodies. A total value of EGP 4.3 billion and the implementation of 192 projects, at a value of EGP 25.6 billion, is currently being completed, to register the total participating projects in 317 projects.

The Ministry of Military Production also clarified that eight new industrial companies were established, including Misr Gulf Company for Elevators and Escalators in cooperation with the Gulf Company for Elevators and Saudi Escalators, and Abu Zabal Punching Services Company in cooperation with the Arab Company for Industry, Mining and Omani Rock Engineering.

The ministry also established Heliopolis Sharaf Chemical Company for the production of explosive wick in cooperation with Sharaf Chemicals – the Egyptian Company for Industrial Technology to produce security wire fences in cooperation with the Egyptian IMUT Company – the industrial grass company Ever Green, in cooperation with the IMUT company.

The new companies included also The Egyptian Company for Sports Supplies in cooperation with the clearing sport, the National Finance Fund and the Mister Sport Foundation – the National Company for Pharmaceutical Products We-Can, in cooperation with the two companies, Vaxira and Farco, and the Viva Egypt Fund – the Heliopolis Company for the production of sealing in cooperation with the Saudi Bisan Company.

None of these companies has any relation to military-industrial, which sparked a wide wave of questions about the real role of the ministry. 

The primary role

It seems that the increasing role of the Ministry of Military Production and the questions it raised caused the late Minister, General al-Assar, to declare last October to the media that the ministry’s primary role is to meet the demands and needs of the armed forces and the police, and to provide ammunition, weapons, and equipment.

He added that the surplus productive capacities are being utilised to manufacture various civil products, and to contribute to the implementation of national and development projects in the country.

However, this statement was not sufficient to justify the storming of the Ministry of Military Industries to all civil projects and investments, even including the manufacture and installation of faucets provided in government mosques in cooperation with the Ministry of Awqaf (Endowments).

The ministry had also announced the completion of three projects in the field of agriculture and land reclamation, the most important of which was the establishment of a system of inventory of agricultural holdings, and the manufacture and supply of agricultural equipment (tyres – corn dryers).

She also indicated the completion of the implementation of the number of three projects in the field of transport and communications with a value of EGP 1.1 billion, which is to develop railway lubricants, and to develop and raise the efficiency of railway stations and berths, in addition to the localisation project for the manufacture of electric buses in Egypt in cooperation with two companies, one from China and the other from USA.

In health and education, the Ministry of Military Production revealed its work to establish a comprehensive health insurance system in Port Said Governorate, and its role in the production and sale of various products needed by citizens and institutions to combat the new coronavirus from disinfectants, detergents, masks, and sterilisation gates, in addition to manufacturing mobile classes for school students to solve the overcrowding of students in the classroom.

New directions

All of the above, in addition to the ministry’s participation in electricity, energy and smart gas metre projects, reveals part of the Ministry of Military Production’s intervention during the past few years in everything related to citizens’ lives and their civil needs, away from the military role for which it was created.

Major General Mohamed Morsi, the new Minister of Military Production, said in his first press statements today, after taking his oath, that he has directives from President el-Sisi to follow the plans laid down by the ministry, and develop them continuously.

He added that the purpose of this “is the continuation of the ministry in performing its military and civil work, and its contribution in the military and civil industry sectors”.

Observers consider that referring to the civil industry sectors (in the new minister statement) indicates that the role of the Ministry of Military Production will continue to dominate civil industrial life in the coming days.