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TheStreet Open House

State Says Go Home And Sleep, 24/7 Egypt Resists

In the working class neighborhood of Imbaba, a waiter at a street cafe that's open 24 hours was fuming.

"What are the people who work the late night shifts supposed to do? Our salaries will go down. How will we find more work?" Ibrahim Saeed said. "We already have problems with unemployment and with crime. How will this help? The government issues decisions and that's it, they don't say why."

Officials have presented the regulation as a vital energy-saving step. Egypt has been plagued by widespread electricity cutoffs, in part because of overburdening on its facilities, just one of multiple breakdowns in the nation's infrastructure. Moreover, the government is trying to reduce crushing budget deficits as it struggles to revive an economy hard-hit since last year's revolution â¿¿ and fuel for power plants is a heavy cost.

Local Development Minister Ahmed Zaki Abdin, a non-Islamist who served as a provincial governor under Mubarak, said closing up earlier would save the government more than $1 billion a year â¿¿ though opponents have questioned whether the move would really conserve much energy.

But the move goes beyond economics to try to impose some control over a society in chaos.

"You can't have people staying up all night in cafes. People should be going to bed early so they can do their work," Abdin insisted.

"We can't just keep on doing whatever we want whenever we want ... We're passing through tough circumstances. We have an economic crisis. We have an energy shortage. We have problems everywhere, strikes, unrest, demands. Can't anyone make a compromise?" he said in a TV interview this month.

Past governments have made attempts to regulate business hours in hopes of injecting a semblance of order to Cairo. But in the end, they backed down in the face of business opposition and public uproar. Some are convinced Morsi's government will do the same.

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