Babylon & Beyond

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EGYPT: What's beyond traffic?!

August 16, 2008 |  8:04 am

Cairo_traffic_3 People can still double park, break traffic lights and allowed speed, drive against signs, hold their mobile phones while driving and go unnoticed despite a newly passed legislation that was supposed to put an end to all such practices and render traffic safer. 

After two weeks of its coming into effect, the new law seems far from achieving its optimum end. Though, the legislation imposes hefty fines and prison terms for violations, many Egyptians contend that no real breakthrough is felt yet. However, the law still stands as a new bone of contention between the government and the people.

In fact, there has been always an urge to enforce tighter regulations on hideous Egyptian traffic, which leaves more than 6,000 people killed and 30,000 wounded annually, according to the World Health Organization. However, many think the new law is not capable of rendering roads safer.

The new law has been met with several suspicions: First, many people allege the heavy fines aim at extracting more resources for the indebted treasury while others believe that the imposition of new safety measures aim at benefiting government-supported businessmen who would allegedly be involved in the importation of anti-reflection stop triangles, first-aid kits and fire extinguishers, which are now required in all cars. Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif had reportedly denied such accusations saying that the government just sought to tighten safety measures and eliminate traffic jams.

“Nobody is optimistic about any law passed by the government even if it does not have to do with politics,” wrote prominent political analyst Amr El-Choubaki in the independent Al-Masry al-Youm daily. “The new traffic law is a clear evidence of the deep crisis that the political regime is suffering from because the issue here is not about the lack of democracy or political reform but it has to do with the deterioration of performance and the chaotic promulgation of laws.”

Several groups have been created on Facebook in opposition to the new law.  “We are in Egypt, bribes will be paid, connections will be used, and tributes will be imposed. The children of ministers and members of parliament will be exempt of this law,” read a comment on the social networking website, Facebook. 

Besides the lack of credibility of the government, the law has already reflected the inefficiency of President Hosni Mubarak’s state as Egyptian streets remain plagued with the same irregularities. On the contrary, the new law is believed to have opened a new door for more corruption as it gives cops a better chance to ask for higher bribes and turn a blind eye to violations in return.

—Noha El-Hennawy in Cairo 

Photo: Cairo gridlock. Credit: