Egypt’s PM vows to end blackouts, apologises to Egyptians

Frequent power cuts were among reasons igniting citizens’ outrage towards the rule of late President Mohamed Morsi, subsequently overthrown by the then-defence minister Sisi in 2013. [Getty]

Egypt’s Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly vowed on Tuesday to end a nationwide power crisis, further exacerbated by recent unplanned blackouts, that have triggered widespread discontent towards his government.

During an afternoon press conference aired on national TV, Madoubly apologised to the Egyptian people for the sustained inconveniences, saying that the country would import petroleum products used for power generation worth about US$ 1.8 billion in a bid to end the ongoing ordeal by the end of this year.

Even though the government had earlier declared a schedule for planned power cuts to alleviate increasing electrical overloads, sudden blackouts were unexpectedly reported over the past 48 hours, lasting for as long as 12 hours in some areas in the capital, Cairo, and in other parts of the country.

The government recently declared it would extend its rolling power blackouts across the country for an extra hour to last for up to three hours, and only on Saturday and Sunday, to allow for preventative maintenance on its regional gas and power networks.

But Egyptians were surprised to find the time surpassing three hours, without prior notification, prompting even pro-regime journalists and TV hosts to criticise the government.

Madouly said that the three-hour-power cut plan would continue until the third week of July and that commercial stores would be obliged to shut down at 10 pm (8 pm GMT) to reduce power consumption.

Egypt has in recent weeks been hit by an unforgiving heat wave when temperature ranges from 40 to 50 Celsius amid increasing power cuts, especially in southern provinces. 

Madbouly noted during Tuesday’s presser that the current crisis had been triggered by a malfunction in one of the natural gas stations in a neighbouring supply country, without naming the state. But it is widely believed that he meant Israel, from which Egypt imports part of the quote of the natural gas required for operating power stations.

Unexpected blackouts coincided with nights preceding final exams the country’s students of “Thanaweya Amma” (the last secondary school year) would sit in, sparking further outrage among Egyptians who viewed the government as failing their children.

Many Egyptians, meanwhile, voiced anger towards a controversial decision to exempt beach resorts including the Mediterranean North Coast and Sharm el-Sheikh in South Sinai, mostly frequented by the rich in the country.

The frequent blackouts have further interrupted daily business activities in the Arab World’s most populous country and even led to deaths.

In one case in Alexandria, a saxophonist named Mohammed Ali Nasr recently lost his life as he attempted to help children get out of a lift after it had stopped due to a power cut.

Earlier this month, old posts on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s achievements were reportedly removed after growing criticism by activists and citizens over unfulfilled vows, including an end to power cuts.

Some of the posts date back to 2014 after Sisi assumed his post, taking pride in how his government managed to end frequent power cuts, one of the reasons igniting citizens’ outrage towards the rule of late President Mohamed Morsi, who was subsequently overthrown by the then-defence minister Sisi in 2013.

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