Will the government’s decision to close Egypt’s shops at 10pm be implemented – Published on Al-Ahram weekly online, by Ahmed Kotb, 25 October – 1 November 2012.
The Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce (FECC) decided Monday to reject the decision taken by the Board of Governors that stipulates that shops across the country shut down at 10pm.
In a statement issued following its emergency meeting Monday, the FECC stated that its members agreed that there should be social dialogue before applying the government’s decision in order to reach a consensus on what would be beneficial to all parties.
The emergency meeting was held by the FECC with the participation of chambers of commerce from different Egyptian governorates, in order to discuss what the Board of Governors described as a necessary step to save on electricity subsidies worth LE6 billion per year. The decree, which remains to be implemented after the end of the Eid Al-Adha feast next week, stipulates that shops close down at 10pm while restaurants may stay open to midnight. Tourist facilities and pharmacies are exempt from the decree.
“If the decree is implemented now, it will be in favour of informal trade activities,” said Khaled Hanafi, economic advisor to the FECC. He added that the government could not solve the persistent problem of street vendors until now, which will grow, in case shops close at 10pm. “This will shake the economy because such informal businesses do not pay taxes and negatively affect taxpaying businesses. The country will lose money instead of saving as the government intends,” Hanafi pointed out.
Many workers will lose their jobs, said Hanafi, because many shops are open 24/7. “Night shift labour will be laid off.”
Moreover, Hanafi fears that the executive bodies of the government are currently unable to implement the plan, thus leading to the spread of bribery and other acts of corruption.
Chambers of commerce in the various Egyptian governorates criticised the government’s decision, and each had its own reasons.
The Cairo Chamber of Commerce said in a press statement that closing shops at 10pm will exacerbate traffic congestion and that the closing hour should be initially set at 12am in order to give shops the opportunity to start closing gradually at an earlier hour.
In Fayoum, the chamber of commerce announced that the decree does not suit the nature of the governorate because it is considered a tourist governorate where tourists prefer to spend the night shopping.
Similarly, chambers of commerce in North and South Sinai said that if shops are to close at 10pm, security conditions will deteriorate, and the unemployment rate will rise drastically because shopping usually takes place at night. Many other chambers of commerce in different governorates cited the same reasons for their criticism of the decree.
In Egypt, electricity consumption by homes exceeds that used by industries, using about 40 per cent of total electricity production. “Instead of going out to shop, people will go home, turn on lights, air conditioning units and television, and consume more subsidised energy,” Hanafi stated.
Ahmed Al-Wakil, head of the FECC, was quoted as saying that closing shops at 10pm will cost more than LE25 billion in financial losses. He added that unemployment rates in the internal trade sector would jump by 3-4 per cent … //
… The 2010 plan to close down shops at 9pm in winter and 10pm in summer was part of a scheme to regulate internal trade and the market in general in each governorate, said Hanafi. Besides, he added, security conditions were much better at the time.
Until Al-Ahram Weekly went to print the government had not responded to the FECC announcement and plans are still on track to close the country’s shops at 10pm.