CAIRO – The Egyptian government decided to postpone by one week the imposition of a curfew on shops and restaurants that had been intended to save energy and bring order to the street but sparked a broad backlash.
The 10 p.m. curfew, which had been due to start on Saturday, is compulsory for all shops, while restaurants and cafes are to close at midnight. Few businesses, such as those with a tourism license and pharmacies, are exempted from the new regulations.
The postponement appeared to be driven by pressure from chambers of commerce and the public, who say the plan causes more harm than good and its implementation is unclear.
Municipal Development Minister Ahmed Zaki Abdeen told private TV network Al-Hayat late Thursday that the new rules will come into effect next week, when "executive regulations" are ready.
The government has made no official announcement regarding the postponement.
On Friday, state-run Al-Ahram daily described Abdeen's comments as a reflection of "confusion" in the government as it deals with pressure from business groups and merchants.
The paper quoted Ahmed al-Wakeel, head of the Union of Chambers of Commerce, as saying that his group has suggested extending the curfew to 11:00 p.m. for big cities and tourist sites such as Cairo, Alexandria, Luxor and resort areas like Sharm el-Sheikh.
Egypt's Prime Minister Hesham Kandil is to meet with representatives from the chambers to look into their suggestions, the paper added.
The government has said that the early closure would save nearly 3 billion Egyptian pounds annually by conserving electricity, as the nation struggles with an economic crisis and fuel shortages. It also says the move will ease traffic congestion, which in turn would make it easier for municipalities to clean the streets, make renovations, and bring order.
However the chambers argue that the plan would lead to higher unemployment as millions of Egyptians work at night.
Critics also believe that it will be virtually impossible to enforce the new regulations in Cairo, home to an estimated 18 million, given the absence of strong law enforcement since last year's uprising.