Bahrain moves to stabilise economy
Manama, March 17, 2011
Business and commerce came to a standstill in Bahrain yesterday (March 16) as government security forces took action to return stability to the economy.
Employers told workers to stay home temporarily as security forces began restoring order to the kingdom.
Retail outlets, from shopping malls to cold stores, closed their doors because of concerns for their staff and banks across the country closed their branches. Private taxis were nowhere to be seen yesterday and Speedy taxis said it had cancelled its operations for the day in the wake of the early morning incidents.
Bahrain Association of Banks (BAB) chief executive Robert Ainey said most banks had closed their retail branch operations but continued to offer services through ATMs and Internet banking and that the system continued to function although staff were told to stay at home.
He said that BAB had told its staff to stay at home because of the problems of travelling to work in the current disruption.
"The industry has acted wisely in the interests of the safety and security of its staff in closing retail outlets but continues to provide a full service on e-banking and other services," he said.
"With the return of stability and Bahrain being open again to international business we expect that trust will return to the overall economy and that in a short period of time this will be reflected by rating agencies upgrading the kingdom's debt."
One leading financial institution in the Bahrain Financial Harbour yesterday moved all of its operations out of its offices there until things settled down.
"We are continuing to service all of our clients either from our overseas operations or from a site outside our main offices in the harbour," a spokesperson said. "There are a lot of institutions in the Harbour that are doing the same and we would expect we can all get back to our offices in the near future. Hopefully, stability will return and we will be back to normal."
A spokesperson for Standard Chartered Bank said that in the interests of safety they had closed their branches temporarily and told staff to stay at home.
"Staff safety remains our priority and our branches are closed today," he said. "Customers can still reach us via our call centre. All our staff are safe and we are maintaining a close eye on the situation."
HSBC also closed its retail outlets for the day. "All HSBC's 334 staff in Bahrain are safe and accounted for," a spokesperson said. "All four branches were closed, but otherwise HSBC is maintaining a business-as-usual service in Bahrain.
"All ATMs are stocked and functioning. Direct banking channels, including our Internet banking and call centre, are also operating normally. HSBC has robust contingency plans in place for crisis situations, and these are designed to keep our critical services functioning in times of disruption," the spokesperson added.
"These are deployed and are working well in Bahrain now. HSBC will continue to closely monitor events in Bahrain and will take all steps necessary to protect its staff, customers and their interests."
A spokeswoman for the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) said that the decision to close branches yesterday had been the decision of individual bank managements.
She said the CBB continued to operate effectively in serving the financial sector in the current situation. – TradeArabia News Service