Rabat - Until October 25, Moroccans looked forward to switching back their clocks to standard time. However, the government’s about-turn decision disoriented their expectations at the last minute by abolishing time changes.
Four times a year, Moroccans across the country had to reset their clocks and deal with a disruption of their life schedule. There were some who loudly complained over the changes, but many were fine with it until October 26.
Morocco was set to end Daylight Saving Time (DST) and return to standard time on Sunday, October 28.
Yet on Thursday, October 25, the government published a statement announcing a government council would meet Friday to discuss cancelling the time change and remaining on DST year-round.
On Friday, the government approved the decree, announcing that there would be no time change Sunday. How and why? No one had a clue about the last-minute decision. An hour after the decision, officials said it would be beneficial for the public and allow the country to save energy. But with many complaining, will it really benefit the public?
Angry and confused, Moroccans consider social media as the only space where they can lash out about the government’s hasty and unnecessary decisions made without any prior notice or public consultation.
In an attempt to cover up for the lack of public consultation, the minister delegate in charge of the reform of administration and public service, Mohamed Benabdelkader, said the decision to stay on DST followed an evaluation study and “many indicators.”
He said that “the indicators include health aspects related to time change, energy saving and Morocco’s commercial transactions.”
“The study showed that adding 60 minutes to the Kingdom’s time enables us to gain an hour of light. It will enable citizens to spend their time in better conditions and reduce the peak risk of electricity consumption, which sometimes causes damage,” Benabdelkader asserted.
Cafeteria lunch, anyone?
He also announced that the Ministry of Education would change schools time-tables. A few hours later on Friday, the ministry issued a statement to announce new school schedules to go into effect November 7 when students return from their first school break.
The statement says that school children will start at 9 a.m. and leave schools at 1 p.m. Students will have a one hour lunch break, and should go back to school at 2 p.m. Traditionally, the morning session was from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, and students used the two-hour lunch break to go home. The time-table change was implemented to ensure students are not going to school before sunrise.
The new time-table is a quick fix, which is dangerous and shows extreme laziness from the government. How is it possible for a student who lives 30 minutes away from school go home for lunch and return to school within an hour? What about parents?
In the public sector and some private sector jobs, employees start work at 8:30 a.m. and finish at 4:30 p.m. Did the government take into consideration how parents can drop their children off before work? Not everyone can afford to pay a school bus for a private school. If parents are to start at 8:30 a.m., they will have to drop their children off 30 minutes or an hour before school starts.
MP Abdellatif Ouahbi told Morocco World News that when the European Union thought about abolishing time change, it conducted a survey to study the impact of the decision. However, the Moroccan government made the decision overnight, without even publishing the results of the alleged study.
Since the government seems to sync with its European neighbors—France and Spain—and stay on DST, they should have at least prepared measures not to affect the public.
Rather than leaving their children outside schools early, parents, especially mothers, may not have much choice but to find a personal solution or leave work.
The government could have prepared a suitable time-table for school children: The one-hour lunch break is not enough.
Parents will be forced to either prepare lunches for their children or pay for them to buy lunches. The government may not have taken this into consideration.
The government should bear responsibility for its decision. They should at least think of providing cafeterias in all schools.
More transparency, please
It is not the first time the government has stunned the public with last-minute decisions. In August, the government issued a statement saying that it would propose re-introducing mandatory military service again. The government council then approved the draft bill within two days. Parliament has not yet voted on the bill.
The last-minute decision left people scratching their heads as it came after very little prior notice in the form of an agenda item added less than two days before the approval.
Since the government claimed that it has conducted a study to see whether the DST is beneficial, why did the government not announce it? Where are the study’s findings?
When the European Union conducted a consultation on the current EU summertime arrangement in July, the union published an overview on the objective of the study as well as the period of the consultation.
“Following a number of requests from citizens, from the European Parliament, and from certain EU Member States, the Commission has decided to investigate the functioning of the current EU summertime arrangements and to assess whether or not they should be changed,” wrote the EU in its briefing on the consultation.
Since the decision affects everyone, the government should have consulted the public to hear people’s opinion before making any move.
Just because Spain and France are out of whack on GMT+1 does not mean Morocco should follow their lead.
Morocco is geographically within the longitudinal lines of the GMT time zone. The government should have moved to standard time (GMT) and remained there, stopping time changes. Moving to GMT +1 puts Morocco in the same time zone as countries like Chad and Poland (far east of Morocco) and yet an hour ahead of the UK and Togo, which are roughly in the same longitudinal position.
When countries are in the appropriate time zone, solar noon, the time the sun is highest in the sky, should be close to 12 noon. In Oujda, in far eastern Morocco, solar noon today was at 12:51 p.m. Yet in Dakhla, in Western Sahara, solar noon today was at 1:47, clearly showing that the country is better suited to GMT than GMT+1.