Manama suq traders seek help
Manama, May 16, 2011
Traders in the Manama suq say it will require more than just "empty words" to bring life back to what was once Bahrain's main shopping district.
Reacting to a Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI)-backed plan to hold a shopping and entertainment festival, they said it would be better to have regular events throughout the year.
"Rather than have a huge event over a month and then forget about the suq, it would be better to have theme weekends throughout the year so that people keep coming," said Marsim owner Abdulkarim Al Fulaij.
"We seem to be nobody's children. No one cares whether we survive or not.
"There has always been a lot of talk over the last many years about big plans for us but nothing has happened on the ground.
"A massive facility costing millions of dinars has been set up and termed as the 'new old suq' but where are the visitors?"
The businessman was referring to the renovated part of Bab Al Bahrain, where an air-conditioned building has been introduced.
He said the Tujjar Avenue and Wali Al Ahd Avenue and the Shaikh Khalifa Avenue were in a bad condition. "Priority should be to get these areas beautified and cleaned up," he said.
"Officials have to concentrate on giving the derelict buildings a facelift and organising events in a way that people come to the area.
"Weekend food and shopping festivals, special innovative and short-term promotions as well as making the area traffic-free would be a good idea."
Al Fulaij also requested Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro to visit the suq. "While we agree the minister is taking steps to perk up business and visiting supermarkets, we invite him to also come to visit us in the suq to see for himself what problems we are facing," he said.
Al Fulaij said a major problem for traders were landlords who had refused to give a moratorium on rents. "Rather than do that, some have actually said they are increasing the rents," he complained.
"Traders are being forced to pay while some have said they would rather close shop. This will spell disaster for the area."
Labelling landlords as "greedy", Fulaij said they appeared to be only interested in themselves and not the long-term good of Bahrain. "They should know the whole nation is suffering and they should do their bit," he said.
The businessman said a proposed suq renovation plan should only take place with proper planning. The money has to be used wisely if the suq has to be revived and it has to be done quickly," he warned.
The BCCI earlier announced a major renovation project was in the pipeline for the suq, including repairing damaged roads and streetlights and water and sewerage facilities. - TradeArabia News Service
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