Cairo: Egypt’s governmental Consumer Protection Agency (CPA) has urged the public to make a “symbolic” one-day boycott of shopping on Thursday to pressure merchants into reducing prices of goods.
The call comes weeks after Egypt floated its local pound and slashed fuel subsidy, triggering a spike in prices of most commodities, mainly food.
The government has called the price hikes “unjustified” and blamed them on “manipulative” traders.
“This is a symbolic initiative to maximise the role of the consumer and restore balance between the consumer and the merchant,” CPA head Atef Yaqoub said.
“It is insensible that the citizen receives a blow after blow and stands handcuffed as prices of food commodities and appliances soar so horribly,” Yaqoub said in media remarks this week.
“The initiative aims at delivering a message to the merchant to take care of the most important part in his flourishing trade, i.e. the consumer.”
The official explained that December 1 has been chosen for the boycott because the first day of the month usually marks the peak of family shopping in Egypt, which is the Arab world’s most populous country of 92 million people. “Boycotting on this day sends a message to merchants that consumers can control the market.”
Yaqoub warned that the step would be followed by others including declaring a blacklist of “exploitative” merchants and stores as well as boycotting perishable items such as eggs.
The campaign has drawn online support. “If we can minimise our shopping on December 1 to 10 per cent, this will be a big gain,” said an Egyptian woman named Heba Jamal in a Facebook comment. “Let’s remember that merchants have withheld sugar and rice from us. So let’s withhold our money from them,” she added, referring to a recent shortage of food items in Egypt.
However, some people dismissed the boycott call as unrealistic. “Can consumers buy goods in the first place so that they are asked to boycott them?” asked a man, named Hamdi, in a Facebook post. “Where’s the government’s role in combating high prices?”
Some economists have also cast doubts over the impact of the campaign.
“One day of boycott will not affect the greedy merchants, most of whom are millionaires,” said Rashad Abdou, who heads the non-governmental Egyptian Economic Forum. “Will people not eat on the first of December? They will mostly buy their needs on the day before the boycott. Thus, the merchant will not be affected because he will just sell the same amount of goods on one day instead of two,” he argued.
Egypt’s economy has been in decline due to the unrest that followed the 2011 uprising.
The government of President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi has defended its recent tough measures, saying they are necessary to overhaul the economy.