Egyptians launch campaigns against paying electricity bills amid power crisis

Ahram Online, Friday 24 May 2013

Several campaigns urge Egyptians not to pay electricity bills, further complicating Egypt's power problems by decreasing revenues; local media bashes government for power cuts

Power outages still ongoing in Egypt (Photo: Reuters)

Egyptian activists have launched online campaigns to withhold paying electricity bills in protest against frequent power cuts, which the government says is due to fuel shortages.

The campaigns called on citizens to not pay for "a service they don't get."

Several protests took place in a number of Egyptian governorates by citizens angry at the power cuts disrupting their work, adding further reasons for President Mohamed Morsi and his government to worry over falling popularity.

Local media criticised the government for not ending the week-long problem.

"It's all dark, government," read the main headline of the newspaper of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), from which President Mohamed Morsi and eight ministers in the cabinet hail. Another headline by Al-Watan independent newspaper read "The rebellion of darkness against the government."

The spate of irregular daytime blackouts are part of the electricity ministry plans to conserve power during Egypt's hottest months from May to August.

Egypt's cash-strapped government is already struggling to secure financing for energy imports amidst a currency crisis that saw the Egyptian pound partly depreciated and foreign reserves tumbling.

The campaigns against paying bills may further complicate government efforts.

An electricity ministry source told Al-Shorouk daily that the electricity sector is facing a "major crisis" due to the decrease in bills' revenues after many citizens refused to pay the bills and big clients, including factories and companies, asked for installed payments.

The Ministry of Petroleum said it has secured an extra amount of fuel to power stations, which helped ease power cuts late on Thursday.

In the Egyptian port city of Damietta, dozens of residents – along with workers from local hotels, cafeterias and supermarkets – took to the streets on Thursday to protest the intermittent outages, which led to the temporary closure of the city's main electricity company and main security directorate.

The Ministry of Electricity has called on Egyptians to ration their use of electricity, especially the use of air conditioners and heaters.

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