Bahrain may scrap driving licence ban plan
Manama, October 27, 2013
Bahrain may scrap plans to ban expatriates from getting driving licences unless their job requires it could be scrapped, a top official said.
Parliament approved the proposal as part of a draft Traffic Law passed in June.
An amendment to article 20 states that "resident expats living in Bahrain of non-GCC nationality are not allowed to get a driving licence for a car or machine vehicle unless the nature of his/her job requires it".
However, the draft legislation is due to be reviewed by the Shura Council when its summer recess ends next week and a senior member of the chamber predicted the amendment would be thrown out.
"It is unconstitutional and discriminatory against people living in Bahrain," Shura Council foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman Dr Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
"It also doesn't go with our culture. Many expats have been living here with hardly any discrimination from either the government or the people, so we will not encourage such a move against expats living in Bahrain.
"It will also affect small businesses, especially shops that employ people to do multiple jobs. This part of the law would also be difficult to apply if it was passed,” he added.
However, he described other aspects of the new law as "essential articles to regulate driving".
These include tougher punishments for those who work in public transport without permission or who violate conditions of their licence, as well as taxi drivers who don't use meters.
Dr Shaikh Khalid said he expected the Shura Council to complete its review of the law and refer it back to parliament before its term ends next June.
However, parliament foreign affairs, defence and national security committee chairman Abdulrahman Bumajeed warned against removing the licence ban for expats.
"If you read the law as it is written, there is no negative effect," he claimed.
He added there were no plans to enforce the ban only on low-paid drivers and claimed expats were not being targeted.
"It's important to reassure expats we aren't targeting them, we're just reorganising and polishing the law," he said.
If the law is approved by the Shura Council in its current form, the Interior Ministry would be asked to come up with a list of professions in which expats do require a licence.
"For instance, if you're here as a driver you will get a licence despite your salary," said Bumajeed.
"If your job requires it, you will have a licence. Of course expats will be allowed to drive, but there are people who abuse these laws. For instance, we have problems with illegal taxis.
"Some also transport students, which is a safety concern. The aim is to protect Bahrainis, both taxi drivers and drivers who have permission to transport students."
The proposed law has been pending for five years and will replace existing legislation dating back 34 years.
It contains some penalties that have been quadrupled as the government seeks to get tough on those who put the safety of other road users, passengers and pedestrians at risk.
However, Dr Shaikh Khalid previously said the law could be softened because some of the penalties were "unrealistic" and "radical changes" were needed. – TradeArabia News Service