Bahraini businessmen rap opposition rally calls
Manama, February 11, 2014
Businessmen have criticised calls by opposition groups to hold mass rallies in Manama starting on February 13, saying it could be the final nail in the coffin for the economy.
A coalition of five political societies has announced a series of "organised activities" to mark the third anniversary of anti-government protests, which erupted on February 14, 2011, said a report in the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
It has also called for a boycott of government ministries and shops in an attempt to cripple the economy.
Al Wefaq National Islamic Society secretary-general Shaikh Ali Salman announced the plan during a sermon on Friday.
A series of rallies are expected to be staged from February 13 to 15.
Bahraini businessman Abdulhameed Al Kooheji yesterday warned of dire consequence of repeated disruptions for the economy.
"Bahrain has the weakest economy in the Gulf as we are surrounded by economic giants who are luring businessmen to move to their countries," he said.
"They are enticing them with offers on rent, location and facilities so that they shift their base, which is a loss for Bahrain.
"Any kind of business disruption at this stage will be a nail in the coffin."
The businessman warned that any boycott of services or illegal roadblocks would do more damage to Bahraini families.
"We are pushing the businesses out of Bahrain which means fewer jobs for locals or even workers losing their income," he said.
"It affects the whole chain from hotel, restaurant, retail, landlords and other sectors."
GCC Gold and Jewellery Association chairman Mohammed Sajid Shaikh said around 200 jewellery shops in the Manama suq would be affected if illegal protests were held.
"We don't need such illegal acts at a time when business is picking up," he said.
"No one has the right to damage businesses by blocking roads and other illegal means.
"There are other channels such as parliament or the National Dialogue for groups to resolve their issues and not street violence."
Another businessman Hisham Mattar said it was important to understand that the political situation was connected to the country's economy.
"Any political action like this will hundred per cent affect the economy and if it continues people will lose millions," he said.
"These people from the affected areas are trying to send a message to the people to resolve their issues."
Small and medium-size enterprises that employ large numbers of workers will be badly affected, said Bahrain Free Labour Union Federation (BFLUF) international and Arab relations head Ali Al Binali.
"It's been three years now since our economy is repeatedly been damaged by opposition groups to promote their own agenda," he said.
"People should unite to protect the country and help its economy grow but it's the opposite."
"The dialogue table is open for those with different views to discuss their case."
The Al Fateh Youth Coalition (FYC) - a breakaway of the National Unity Assembly (NUA) - said the annual drill of opposition groups to boycott or go on strike was unacceptable.
"Such acts will not result in anything positive especially at a time when the National Dialogue is entering a serious phase," said FYC spokesman Yacoub Al Slaise.
He said even the dissolved Ulama Islamic Council was backing these rallies and illegal activities.
"It's funny as the council says it does not play any political part and yet it contradicts by supporting such acts that creates tension and affects our fragile economy," he added.
Bahrain's economy lost BD800 million ($2.1 billion) due to the unrest in 2011, according to a Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry report. - TradeArabia News Service