Last Friday, suicide bombers attacked an Egyptian security checkpoint and a civilian bus near the country’s main tourist area, Sharm el-Sheikh. One police officer was killed and at least seven people were wounded. In a separate incident on that same day, an IED exploded in Cairo, killing one and injuring three.Egypt’s escalating cycle of violence bodes ill for a country that is barely hanging on as it is. Militants are increasingly targeting civilians and even tourists, as in a February attack on a bus carrying South Korean tourists near the Israeli border. The tourist industry has been struggling since the Arab Spring uprisings over three years ago, and violence near the popular Sharm el-Sheikh resorts will further deter foreign visitors with cash to spend.A looming energy crisis is making matters even worse. A number of international oil companies are accusing Egypt of not paying its bills, the New York Times reports:
BG, the British company that is one of the country’s biggest gas producers, warned in a statement that its Egyptian liquefied natural gas business “is increasingly at risk” without “concerted action from the Egyptian government.” […]Egypt owes BG alone $1.4 billion, half of it overdue, the company said in its statement on Thursday. BG also warned that the productivity of its gas fields was deteriorating partly because the government was not paying enough to justify investment in maintenance work. Industry executives here say the problem is widespread and point to a vicious circle of nonpayment, noninvestment and diminishing production.
Egypt’s energy crisis is partly due to the authorities’ reluctance to raise prices. They fear that price hikes will set off another wave of protests by Egyptians who have come to rely on cheap cooking gas and gasoline for cars. And with good reason, as it was a fuel shortage that sparked the widespread protests that led to former President Morsi’s downfall. However, the Gulf sheikdoms that have been propping up the government in Cairo are likely to send more funds so that Egypt can at least keep the lights on.But the country’s economic and political problems are still overwhelming, and there are no signs of any real solutions. Egypt is slowly circling the drain but somehow avoiding the drop into the abyss. At least for now.