Bahrain unrest damages ‘still mounting’
Manama, March 8, 2012
Bahrain's economy could have suffered even greater damage than the $800 million losses due to last year’s unrest as estimated in a national report, according to a senior official.
That is because figures included in the report only cover the period from February last year until November, explained Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) board member and entrepreneurs committee chairman Khalid Al Amin.
He said he expected the figure to have increased since November, as the economy continues to feel the effects of the past year.
'It is true that the unrest is over, but its effects are ongoing and until today the market is still affected with more losses being witnessed,' he said.
A joint committee made up of representatives from the Shura Council, parliament and the BCCI came up with the $800 million figure.
It cites direct losses of $200 million and indirect losses of $600 million, stating tourism was down by 80 per cent last year compared to 2010 - threatening 4,000 jobs in that sector alone.
Al Amin welcomed a proposal by a senior Manama councillor to appoint experts to audit the figures, although he said it was based on market data.
'Small and medium businessmen went to Tamkeen asking for financial support after huge damages and they presented audited reports to be eligible for aid,' he explained.
'Besides that, the hotel industry saw occupancy drop by 80 per cent because many confirmed bookings were cancelled - whether for international or regional conferences, meetings, conventions or gatherings, besides visitors coming for festivities.'
However, he said the amount of the losses was not the main problem - particularly with Bahrain benefiting from a GCC aid package of $10 billion (BD3.78 billion).
Instead, he said the main challenge was restoring confidence in investors and restoring Bahrain's image as a place to visit and do business.
'The problem is not with the loss of $800 million, which can be repaid from the GCC aid of $10 billion over 10 years, but with Bahrain's image and restoring confidence in the market and making it appealing again,' he said.
Al Amin was responding to comments by Manama Municipal Council vice-chairman Mohammed Mansoor, who yesterday suggested experts should be appointed to go over the figures.
'The Shura Council and parliament members are not experts on crisis impact or management and despite coming up with general solutions to the ongoing effect of the unrest, their dependence is mainly on calculations and information given by the BCCI,' said Mansoor, who is also the council's financial, economic and financial affairs committee chairman.
'I am not doubting anyone, but the figures presented tend to be vague and there is no real breakdown showing where money has been lost.
'For example, the $200 million figure is based on the cancellation of international events like the Formula One and the Spring of Culture, but how can we calculate losses and call them direct if the events were never held? Another example is indirect losses. What are indirect losses and how can an estimate be made?'
He said the figures had been calculated based on the previous year, but argued that other factors would have impacted Bahrain even if the situation here had remained stable.
'There are international and regional factors that affect market trends,' he argued. 'The Arab world was in crisis last year, not just Bahrain, but there is no distinction on what was directly related to events in Bahrain and what was not.' – TradeArabia News Service