Spillover holidays ‘costing Bahrain $67m daily’
Manama, November 24, 2012
Bahrain could be losing as much as BD25.7 million ($67.77 million) daily as a result of spillover holidays, said a leading economist.
Businessmen say public holidays that fall on weekends and are compensated for during the week cause major damage to the country's economy, reported our sister publication the Gulf Daily News.
Such days off could even force companies out of business in the long-run, they added.
However, one of Bahrain's main trade unions said such holidays were essential to rejuvenate workers and made them more productive.
Economist and businessman Dr Yousef Mashal said the figure was based on the country's gross domestic product (GDP) of $27.5 billion.
"This is a colossal figure considering the size of the country and its GDP," he said.
"We have had several days off for the two Eids in the last few months and now another four days off in a row for the Ashoora holiday.
"The loss of productivity in the private and public sectors are in addition to this figure and the impact is immense. This will drive many out of business."
Dr Mashal explained he was not opposed to public holidays as they are people's rights and stipulated in the Labour Law, but the spillover days should be stopped.
"These affect productivity and lead to businesses suffering. This sometimes translates to an entire week because people tend to take a day or two off in between.”
He added that foreign direct investment suffers the most during such days off. "When banks are closed for several days, it affects everything," he stressed.
"Companies in Bahrain that deal with companies outside the country are severely hit because they are unable to transact. Soon we may have a situation when 70 per cent of Bahrain's workforce, who are expatriates, will begin demanding their own holidays. This will be disastrous."
Other businessmen said people should concentrate more on rebuilding the economy following last year's unrest.
Al Hawaj and Sons chairman and managing director Jawad Al Hawaj said if spillover holidays continue then Bahraini businesses would stop being competitive.
"The national economy needs to be rebuilt and we all have to contribute," said Mr Al Hawaj, who is also Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) board member.
"So many holidays limit our growth and progress. Bahrain is billed as a gateway to the GCC countries and is a commercial centre. However, this situation makes others think twice before they come here."
AJM Kooheji chairman and managing director Abdulhameed Al Kooheji urged authorities to amend labour laws to prevent further losses to the economy.
"When companies from outside come, they weigh the economies of scale and when they see there are so many holidays, they are not impressed," he said.
"The cost and output do not add up and they see their bottom-line would be affected. Any investor would shy away in that situation."
"We have to fight it out with the parliamentarians and make them see reason so that there is a law against so many holidays that are ruining our economy."
He claimed Bahrain had the highest number of spillover holidays in the GCC and Arab region. “Nowhere else but in Bahrain are people given days off in lieu," he added. – TradeArabia News Service