Bahrain traders demand special status for souq
Manama, November 28, 2012
Traders in Bahrain’s Manama souq have demanded the area be treated as a special economic zone to help it regain its glory as well as gain exemption from municipal taxes and reduce utility charges, said a top official.
"We have to have some action and we have to bring the government's attention towards our plight," said Reyad Taher Al Mahroos, chairman of a souq committee set up by traders, was quoted as saying in a report by our sister publication, the Gulf Daily News.
The traders are planning to hold an urgent meeting on Wednesday, he added.
Businessmen in the souq have been among the worst hit by the unrest and claim the government and Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) have repeatedly ignored their plight, the report said.
"We have been demanding something special for us for the last two years and have got nothing. We have now decided to get together and present this demand. We hope the government will agree to this since we in the souq are the worst affected - be it due to the financial crisis or the unrest in Bahrain."
Al Mahroos said, if implemented, the proposal would ensure traders in the souq will not have to pay municipal tax and get some relief from other levies.
"The situation now is that whatever we earn, beg and borrow is taken away by taxes and levies," he claimed. "If this does not happen, we will be better off and will find it easier to recoup."
Al Mahroos said only Prime Minister HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, and Culture Minister Shaikha Mai bint Mohammed Al Khalifa had been sympathetic to their plight.
"We also want to tell the Industry and Commerce Ministry and the BCCI that they, too, should take interest in the matter," he said. "We have only heard lots of words from them and they have made promises, but nothing has happened. Just visiting the souq and taking a round of the area is not going to make a difference."
The meeting will also discuss the reported lack of Tamkeen plans to help revive the souq, and why traders had not been consulted on the proposed Chinatown development in Muharraq.
It will take place at the coffee shop within the old Gold souq building.
"We are concerned about the Chinatown development which is expected to bring in hundreds of Chinese traders to Bahrain," said Abdulkarim Al Fulaij, owner of one of the souq's oldest stores, Marsim.
"This will certainly drive small outlets and shops, particularly in the Manama souq area, out of business."
Retail trade in the souq area has reportedly dropped by 80 per cent since the unrest began, with gold traders saying they have lost millions. The government has been accused of not doing enough to help get businesses back on track.
BCCI board member and its retail and traditional markets committee head Jawad Al Hawaj earlier said development plans for the souq had not been implemented due to repeated change of ministers in charge of municipalities and urban planning, too many people taking decisions and lack of funds. – TradeArabia News Service