Cairo’s attempts to manage the problems in its energy sector resemble papering over the cracks on a sinking ship. Not only are none of the ‘solutions’ going to last, there are lots of cracks and only one piece of paper – ‘fixing’ one problem inevitably causes a leak to spring up somewhere else.

The government correctly realized that it needed to increase payments to foreign operators or risk their leaving – so it did so (MEES, 5 April). But this left it without the funds to import diesel or fuel oil. This has led to power cuts and shortages at the pumps. Meanwhile, plans to import LNG have been stymied by the inconvenient fact that there is no cash to pay for it (see diagram). (CONTINUED - 1996 WORDS)