mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn
Egypt in Turmoil
Egypt's New Rulers Can't Keep the Lights on

As turmoil sweeps across Eurasia, don’t forget Egypt. The country’s politics are still roiling, the economy is still struggling, and the end is nowhere in sight. The latest problem is a series of strikes by thousands of workers, as well as a natural gas shortage, all of which have led to daily electricity blackouts.

Egypt’s new rulers were sworn into office on Saturday, after the previous government abruptly resigned. They were immediately confronted with the messes left behind by past administrations: 38,000 bus drivers went on strike last week to protest the government’s decision to omit them from the newly created national minimum wage. Postal service workers are still on strike, the FT reports, and “doctors, pharmacists, steel and textile workers have all carried out industrial action in recent days.”

Adding to the problems are unseasonable blackouts. Electricity demand usually falls in winter, and blackouts are rare. Not so this time. Despite Egypt’s abundant reserves, natural gas has been in short supply for several months, hindering daily life for Egypt’s citizens and crippling the industries that rely on it.

The resignation late last month of Egypt’s cabinet ministers took even experienced analysts by surprise. Many suspected it was intended to clear the way for Field-Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s widely expected run for the presidency. But he has yet to make his political intentions clear. His hesitation might stem from the army’s reluctance to take responsibility for the sorry state of the economy. (Who would want that thankless problem chasing them to bed every night?) As one investor told the FT: “Egypt can’t afford to live on Gulf aid for ever. It has to face its issues.”

Features Icon
show comments
  • Andrew Allison

    I do wish that FEED would come to grips with the fact that Democracy is not for everyone. Is it not clear that the best outcome for Egypt is a, hopefully relatively benign, military rule with the authority to ban such clearly anti-social activities as strikes to grab an unfair share of what little remains of the economy?

    • Jim__L

      Democracy simply requires institutions that Egypt does not have. No effort was made to construct those institutions, comparable to the ones in Cold War era Eastern Europe. This is what happens when an administration depends on “Hope and Change” sloganeering and warm fuzzies instead of prudent and careful planning.

      The collapse of the Arab Spring was entirely predictable. Look up Niall Ferguson on Morning Joe for a glimpse of the perspective an actual historian can bring to a situation like this.

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2016 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service