One of the key objectives of the new programme, which is intended in the first instance to extend the pilot scheme to 24 courts across the country, is to separate commercial from civil legal procedures. ‘Certainly we can see a difference, so it’s not surprising USAID is extending this model,’ says the Cairo representative of an international law firm. ‘This is a very litigious country and the size of the docket can be enormous, with as many as 300 cases a day going through the courts.’

A series of investment arbitration suits lodged with the World Bank-affiliated International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) since late 2002 indicate the extent of the problems that have been faced by foreign businesses. The latest case involves Joy Mining Machinery, which filed a case against the government with ICSID in March after attempting unsuccessfully to pursue the case in the local courts. The international tribunal was constituted on 3 September and a preliminary hearing was held on 4 November (MEED 7:3:03).