Finding that perfect spot
Unused to paying parking fees — in Egyptian cities parking meters are unheard of, and the sayes, an unofficial parking attendant holds sway — motorists were shocked to hear last week that the government now intends to charge them for parking their vehicles.
A new law regulating the work of the sayes, passed in June 2020, specified parking spaces, times and fees. Criticisms of the law led the Local Development Minister to declare on 24 August that it was still under assessment. It is currently on trial in six neighbourhoods in Cairo governorate and four streets in Giza’s Dokki neighbourhood, and the minister says any hiccups that emerged in the trial period will be addressed.
Giza governorate’s tariff of approved fees has been set at LE10 for the temporary parking of cars, LE20 for trucks, LE30 for buses, and LE300 per month for overnight parking by residential buildings.
Instead of protecting people from the arbitrary charges of the sayes, claims MP Mustafa Bakri, the government has now opted to raise money through compulsory fees.
“People are financially exhausted… the burden on citizens should be reduced instead of increased,” said Bakri.
Khaled Kassem, spokesperson of the Local Development Ministry, said the announced fees “are under review and not final”.
MP Ahmed Al-Segini, head of parliament’s Local Administration Committee, characterises the fees as “improvisational actions by particular neighbourhood administrations that contravene the spirit of the law”.
The law allows for parking licences to be issued to private security companies via tender. The companies will be responsible for hiring parking attendants according to set criteria. The law contains no provision requiring residents to pay fees for parking in front of their residential buildings.
Al-Segini told Sada Al-Balad TV channel that the way the law was being applied would cause fights between residents over parking spaces in front of their buildings and that he had contacted the minister of local development who promised to resolve the situation.
On 26 August, the ministry announced that it organise intensive workshops and training courses for 500 employees charged with implementing the provisions of the law.
The Ministry of Local Development subsequently issued a statement saying the law applied only to main and commercials streets and fees would not be imposed on residential buildings in side streets.
The number of vehicles in Egypt reached 11.5 million in 2019, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilisation and Statistics (CAPMAS), and finding a parking spot has become a daily struggle for many. Given the daily battle for parking spaces, and a 7.3 per cent unemployment rate, it is hardly surprising that the number of sayes has proliferated.
Many drivers complain about these unofficial parking attendants who, they say, often seem to imply that they own the streets on which they work.
MP Mamdouh Maklad, who in 2018 submitted the draft law regulating the work of the sayes, insists it “will lead to a win-win situation”.
“The state will financially benefit from the tenders. The citizen will benefit from the new organisation of parking spots and will avoid the bullying of the sayes because his work will be supervised. And the sayes will benefit through having a stable income and social insurance,” Maklad told Al-Ahram Weekly.
The law will require a committee to be set up in each governorate to identify parking spaces that do not cause congestion. It stipulates that licensed parking attendants must be 21 or older, have no criminal record, and be in possession of a certificate issued by the Ministry of Health confirming they are drug-free.
The licences will be valid for three years and cost a maximum of LE2,000. Attendants who work without a licence could face fines of between LE1,000 and LE5,000 and up to three months in jail.
*A version of this article appears in print in the 2 September, 2021 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly