Bahrain firms fume over extra holiday plan
Manama, January 13, 2010
Bahrain's business community has reacted angrily to plans to increase holidays for private sector workers from 24 days to 30 days.
The Gulf Daily News, our sister publication, had reported on Tuesday that the Shura Council had approved parliament's proposal to increase their annual leave effectively giving them an extra week off a year in line with the government sector.
However, businessmen claimed the move could affect the country's competitiveness - with more than one arguing the number of days off should actually be slashed, not increased.
'The more we work, the more money we make,' said businessman and Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) contractors' committee vice-chairman Nedham Kameshki.
'We will end up being losers if we have any more holidays than we already have. If anything, these should be cut.'
He argued that annual leave for private sector workers should remain at 24 days a year, but other public holidays should be cut.
Workers currently get up to 16 days off a year on top of their 24 days annual leave for occasions such as National Day, Ashoora, the Islamic New Year and Prophet Mohammed's birthday.
Kameshki suggested they should get 24 days, plus two weeks off every year - one week each for Eid Al Fitr and Eid Al Adha - as well as a single day off for National Day.'
He went on to accuse MPs for pandering to public opinion in a bid to retain their seats. 'They want to tell people they are doing good things for them and retain their positions,' he claimed.
Kameshki described last month as a disaster for the business community, saying companies closed for almost three weeks as a result of public holidays.
'We shall be left behind as a nation if that goes on because businessmen and investors are feeling demoralised,' he added.
The BCCI's youngest board member and chairman of its youth businessmen committee and disputes and arbitration committee, Khalid Al Amin, described Bahrain as a record holder for the number of holidays.
'Why are we even thinking of any more?' he asked. 'If we want to be self dependent and more productive, we have to think away from holidays.'
He claimed the country was becoming lazy and warned that it could be left behind as a result. 'These are challenging times and we need a competitive edge,' he said. 'We are increasingly turning into a lazy nation and will soon get left behind.'
Meanwhile, former BCCI board member Abdulhakim Al Shammari said more holidays mean extra costs for businessmen. 'We have more than enough holidays and we do not need more,' he said.
'This is retarding the country's growth and we are suffering. Unfortunately, it is the citizens who end up paying for the work days lost. If we are less productive, we make up in other ways and over the long term, the burden will be on the consumer.'
He argued that some of the bigger businessmen and contractors lost up to BD100,000 ($265,392) in a single day as a result of paying workers during a public holiday.
BCCI gold and pearl committee chairman Mohammed Sajid Sheikh claimed more holidays would further jeopardise an economy already facing problems.
'The private sector is already on a hand-to-mouth existence and we should get support from all quarters, including the parliament,' he said. 'This proposal for extra holidays should be scrapped,' he added.-TradeArabia News Service