Lebanon News

Beirutis greet daylight saving with a shrug

The clock in Nijmeh Square in Downtown Beirut, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2013. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: Lebanese will move their clocks one hour backward Sunday, heralding the end of six months of daylight saving time. First adopted by Germany during World War I, daylight saving is currently used by many countries across the world to increase the number of daylight hours in the evening, thus reducing evening use of incandescent lighting.

Lebanon adopted daylight saving in 1988 under then-Prime Minister Salim Hoss and has been routine practice ever since, with the secretary-general of the prime minister’s office issuing a memo twice every year. The first one in March, requesting that Lebanese adjust their clocks one hour forward at the last Sunday of the month, and a second urging them to them back one hour on the last Sunday of October.

While the aim of daylight saving time is to save energy through economizing the use of electricity, many Lebanese are annoyed by the practice for which they find no justification. Everywhere daylight saving has been adopted, it has been subject to controversy because it extends the daylight in the evening by subtracting an hour in the morning. Those working in services or industry enjoy an extra hour of sunlight after work, but farmers, whose livelihood is tied to the sun, have traditionally resented the imposed shift.

In Beirut, the concerns of people are mostly logistical.

“This is seriously very annoying and useless because all days are the same, whether in winter or summer,” said Hiba Suleiman, sitting in the clothes shop where she works.

“We are used to a specific time now and we have to adjust to a new one. I ask why do they do so? This disrupts my sleep, I will not be able to sleep enough,” she added.

A similar opinion was shared by Abed Shami.

“It bothers me actually. I feel the difference if I am used to watching a news episode or series in the time of another country. It will be either one hour earlier or later in local time,” Shami said, sitting outside his mechanics shop.

“I am not convinced of this practice,” he added.

Caretaker Economy Minister Nicolas Nahas argued that the idea behind daylight saving was still valid, although some countries have done away with the practice.

“It is an international acceptance of the fact that when you have more daylight, you use less artificial light,” Nahas said. “It is really simple; it aims at saving electricity.”

But Suheil Bouji, secretary-general of the office of caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati, acknowledged that the daylight saving has become outdated.

“Some countries no longer abide by this practice and some still adhere to it. I believe we cannot abolish it immediately, we have to inform airline companies ahead of time,” Bouji said.“We have to do that because people book their flights months ahead of time.”

Bouji added that a Cabinet decision was required to abandon daylight saving time.

A source from Air France airlines company agreed.

“We put our schedule of flights at the start of every year taking into consideration winter and summer times,” said the source, who did not want to be identified. “We have to be informed about it few months ahead of time at least to alter our schedules.”

Other people said they did not understand the rationale behind changing the time.

“It changes nothing,” said Mohammad Kheir, sitting on a chair at the sidewalk. “I believe this practice is introduced because light hours become less in winter,” he said, turning to his companion to ask whether he should move his clock forward or backward Sunday.

Kheir said he was not annoyed by the change of time since it happened on a Sunday when most people do not have work.

Hussein Akkawi said also he was indifferent regarding the change of time, even if it meant that he had to close his clothes shop an hour earlier.

“Now we close at 7 or 7:30, but at winter time, I will be closing at 6:30,” he said. “I do not mind either.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on October 25, 2013, on page 4.




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