The Prime Minister Hisham Qandil has unveiled the latest schedule for closing times for shops, set to take effect in December. According to Sunday’s statement, Qandil managed to reach a compromise with the chairman of the Federation of the Chambers of Commerce (FECC), as well as several members and heads of the Chambers of Commerce.
The new plan will see all workshops in residential areas that produce excessive levels of noise, except tire stores, closed by nine in the evening.
Shops in villages must shut off exterior lights by nine pm and be fully closed by 11pm. In the cities the shops must have their lights dimmed by 10pm and be fully closed by midnight.
Restaurants, coffee shops and other such venues must have their exterior lighting reduced by midnight, followed by a total closure of the venue two hours after. Under the new proposal, such venues will still be allowed to remain operational for delivery and take-away after closure.
The law excludes pharmacies and gas stations from having to shut their doors, but maintains lights must be dimmed by 9pm in villages, and 10pm in cities.
The new law will be applied gradually from December and is expected to be fully implemented by the end of April 2013. The government has said this law is meant as an energy saving measure and placing a curfew on shops will help reduce the cost and burden on the strained power.
Earlier last month, the FECC president Ahmed Al-Wakil condemned the government’s initial proposition, which would have seen all non-touristic shops close their doors by 10pm. He had not opposed the law itself, but said that every governorate has its own culture and operating times, and applying one mode across the board would be detrimental to business.
“It is hard to say who is right in this case,” Ola Khawaga, a professor of economics at the Cairo University said. “On the one hand, the government says this will help with the traffic and the energy consumption, while shop owners say they will lose a lot of money.”
Khawaga said there is a need to conduct an extensive cost-benefit analysis of such policies before making any decision. “According to such an analysis we can then decide what to do,” she said.
The government’s methodology, according to Khawaga, is very strange. Rather than passing a law and enforcing it, showing people that there is a rule of law, “they make a decision and then say they will review the decision, which is not the right way to do things.
“The consequences of their decision [to implement the law] have not been calculated,” she added, saying “repercussions and benefits must first be calculated before making such decisions.”
At the time of publication a protest was ongoing, organised by the Bahia movement, in support of the shopkeepers that do not agree with the new law. The march was scheduled to begin at 5pm in Bab El-Shariah, ending at the Cabinet building.