PhD graduate nominated prime minister of Egypt

July 26, 2012
By Chris Saunders

Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

Photo courtesy of Associated Press.

Hesham Kandil ’93 PHD, Egypt’s minister of water resources, was nominated prime minister by Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Tuesday.

Kandil was born in 1962. He received a bachelor’s degree in engineering from the University of Cairo in 1984, then went on to earn a master’s in irrigation and drainage from Utah State University in 1988, according to BBC news. He earned his PhD from NC State in biological and agricultural engineering with a minor in water resources in 1993.

In Kandil’s dissertation, he extended a computer simulation model of water drainage developed at NC State. The work, titled “DRAINMOD-S: A Water Management Model for Irrigated, Arid Lands,” uses data from field plots in Egypt. The computer model developed at NC State simulates how water moves through poorly drained, high-water table soils on an hour-by-hour and day-by-day basis for long periods of as long as 50 years. Kandil’s paper helps predict salinity on arid lands—an issue in parts of the world like Egypt.

Wayne Skaggs, William Neal Reynolds professor of drainage and agricultural water management, was Kandil’s adviser at NC State. Skaggs remembers Kandil as a “very bright, hard-working student who did an outstanding job on his PhD….a personable, very technically able individual who works well with people in all levels.” Skaggs noted that although one news report referred to him as an “obscure technocrat,” he found Kandil to be out of “outstanding moral and ethical character…a pleasure to be around.”

“My experience with Hesham indicates that he is absolutely honest and will work as hard as he can to do his very best to benefit the people of Egypt.  I am very proud of him.  The job he now has is enormous,” Skaggs said in an email message.

As an American-educated technocrat, Kandil is likely to be comfortable working with international agencies, news reports noted. At age 50, he is one of the youngest prime ministers in the country’s modern history. His leadership skills will be tested as he begins to assemble a cabinet that would replace the current one, appointed by the military after a 2011 uprising ended the nearly 30-year reign of President Hosni Mubarak.

Kandil’s selection came a week after a deadline that Morsi had himself to name a cabinet. So far, no other members of a new government have been announced, and government ministries remain under the control of figures from the Mubarak era.

According to the New York Times, Kandil came to the public eye briefly in June when a subordinate in his ministry climbed out on a building ledge and threatened to commit suicide. Kandil reportedly quietly persuaded him to come back inside the building. Exactly what he said to the man was not revealed, giving Kandil a reputation for discretion as well, according to the Times.

The Washington Post reported that Kandil will the first prime minister in Egypt to wear a beard, which is seen as an outward display of Islamic piety. Morsi is Egypt’s first bearded president.


One Response to “PhD graduate nominated prime minister of Egypt”

  1. Anya says:

    MB should fully enjoy its viotrcy but coming days are not going to be easy. Military is still the most powerful force in the country and it will remains so for years to come. To deal with such strong military, Morsi/MB now have two choices based on the experience of two other Muslim countries which found themselves in somewhat similar circumstances. Pakistan People Party (led by Benazir Bhutto) and AKP (led by Erdogan) won popular elections in 1988 and 2002 respectively but faced a deeply entrenched powerful military, unwilling to allow the new government to work independently. Even before they became Prime Ministers, Bhutto and Erdogan had to give assurances that they will play by the rules i.e. accept military’s ascendency and pre-eminance in the affairs of state. Reports of recent talks between the SCAF and MB show that such negotiations might also be happening in Egypt and orders of shoot-to-kill (which you referred in your previous post) might have been given to drop a hint to the MB negotiators that the military is ready for bloodshed, if assurances are not given. Fortunately, it appears MB has satisfied the military as Pakistani and Turkish militaries were also satisfied by the PMs Bhutto and Erdogan respectively. What happened next in Pakistan and Turkey is a lesson for MB and Morsi. In Pakistan, Bhutto did some good things to open Pakistani society and better the lot of women but her government was mostly associated with incompetence and corruption. This emboldened the military, raised its stature in masses and Bhutto’s government was thrown out of office in twenty months. For the next eight years, military assisted in removal of two more prime ministers, before a martial law was imposed in 1999 to end the decade-old democratic experiment. In contrast, Erdogan’s government performed remarkably well. It managed to improve most of the socio-economic indicators of the country and won praise from Turkish and international pundits for its dedication to the welfare of masses. This performance resulted in two more comprehensive electoral wins in the next nine years. With such popular support behind him, Erdogan gradually challenged the military prerogatives and now Turkey works more like an advanced democracy, with Turkish military almost completely under civilian control.Morsi and MB are well-advised to follow Erdogan’s footsteps and avoid Bhutto’s mistakes. Interestingly, General Tantawi, Chairman of SCAF, served as military attache in Egyptian embassy, Islamabad in the 1980s.

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