Sinai needs more social infrastructure not tanks

02 July 2015

Cairo’s negligence of Sinai over the past few decades is at the root of the escalating situation

The chaos that took over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on 1 July is another illustration of the country’s persistently volatile backdrop.

Although attacks continue to target security staff and government officials with industries and projects so far safe from assaults, it perpetuates Egypt’s ailing stability.

Sinai has historically been neglected by Cairo over the past three decades since its reclamation from Israel in the 1980’s. As long as Egypt’s Nile Delta-centric policies of development and infrastructure continue, Cairo will struggle to alleviate any local disenfranchisement that often leads to extremism in the area.

Although in February this year Egypt’s Central Agency for Construction, which works under the country’s Housing Ministry, announced plans to pump $203m into infrastructure and housing projects in the Sinai Peninsula. The recent events mean this is unlikely to be implemented any time soon as the area continues to be neglected by the authorities. .

Despite widespread public support of the military offensive led by president Abul Fatah al-Sisi’s anti-Islamist rhetoric, the army’s promise to continue its offensive till the area is cleared of all Isis-affiliated militants paints a bleak picture for Egypt for the coming months.

Nevertheless the recent surge of violence is going to slowdown Egypt’s economic aspirations as foreign investors and tourists alike begin to be put off by the North African state’s inability to maintain the stability it promised earlier this year.

There are also wider geo-political implications as Isis-affiliated groups step up their activity in Egypt. Israel has voiced its concerns while Egypt’s military has referred to the situation as a ‘state of war’.

Coupled with the attacks in Tunisia and the already growing influence of Isis in Libya, the recent events could be a sign that Isis’s fight into North Africa is starting to materialse. And it will be interesting to see how Saudi Arabia and GCC states react to the Egyptian situation considering the billions of dollars of grants, loans and investments promised since al-Sisi took office in 2014.

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