Manama council row may hit mega project
Manama, June 19, 2014
A far-reaching investment plan designed to attract multimillion-dinar projects to the Capital Governorate has been abandoned in the wake of calls for the scrapping of Manama Municipal Council.
Councillors had been working on the five-year plan, which would have designated certain areas of Manama and its surrounds as investment hot spots, since January - but said there was little point in continuing if they were to face the axe, reported the Gulf Daily News (GDN), our sister publication.
The move comes after the Shura Council on Monday threw its weight behind a parliamentary proposal to dissolve the capital's historic municipal council amid claims it had been sidetracked by politics.
Its envisaged replacement would be a Capital Trustees committee, made up of a mix of financial and economic experts as well as elected members of civil and community societies, all shortlisted by locals.
Manama Municipal Council vice-chairman Mohammed Mansoor said calls for the council's disbandment discouraged councillors from working on complex plans focused on the future.
"Once upon a time there was an ambitious plan to attract more investment," he said.
"But now, councillors want to abandon it, because they don't want the credit to go to the Capital Trustees and it won't help them to get re-elected. Why spend time and effort over the next six months on this, knowing that others - who will supposedly be appointed because of their experience in municipal and investment affairs - will be taking charge?"
The initial parliamentary plan to scrap Manama Municipal Council had been deemed unconstitutional by the Legislation and Legal Opinion Commission because a replacement appointed body would rob Capital Governorate residents of their rights to nominate elected representatives.
However, the commission said if the plans were approved, then committee members should be elected from bodies within the community instead of being appointed - an amendment that Shura backed.
Council chairman Majeed Millad Al Jazeeri said at the beginning of yesterday's meeting that it was illogical to shift from an elected body to one formed by appointment.
"All of Bahrain's four other councils in the future will be directly accountable to the people - except for Manama since those in it will be appointed and don't have to answer to anyone except the King," he said.
"It is clear that the cancellation of our council has already been set in motion, with parliament, Shura and the government all putting their weight behind the proposals."
Vice-chairman Mansoor added that parliament's "biggest reason" for wanting to scrap the council - that it had caused the delay of several multimillion-dinar projects - was based on a lie.
"It is untrue because no project has been rejected since 2002, when Bahrain's municipal councils were re-launched by the King.
"Just today we had an issue scheduled about an investor seeking a four-storey expansion on a building in Sanabis, which we have approved to attract investment, he said.
The fate of Manama Municipal Council now rests in the hands of parliament, which is due to take another vote on Shura's amendments to its original proposal next week - and His Majesty King Hamad, who can refer the matter to the Constitutional Court before issuing a Royal Decree. - TradeArabia News Service