Suq traders’ plea after ‘zero profit’
Manama, February 21, 2013
Traders in the Manama Suq have reportedly made "zero" profit since the outbreak of violence across the country since February 14, our sister newspaper, the Gulf Daily News reported.
They have sent out an urgent plea to government ministers and officials, who they say have been ignoring their plight.
Commercial activity in the heart of Manama has been significantly affected with major shops either remaining closed or not reporting any customers.
Although no major incidents were reported in Manama, people have been avoiding the area altogether fearing violence and intimidation, claim businessmen.
"Collectively, all the traders would have probably made business of not more than a few hundred dinars in the last seven days," said Old Suq Committee member Mahmood Al Namlaity.
"The situation has been particularly bad in the last few months, but what has happened in the last seven days has been terrible."
Violent opposition radicals have been attacking police with firebombs and metal rods, knocking down lampposts, blocking roads and threatening businesses across several trouble areas since last Thursday, which coincided with the second anniversary of anti-government demonstrations in Bahrain.
Sixteen-year-old Hussain Al Jazeeri died from gunshot injuries during clashes in Daih that day, along with policeman Mohammed Asif Khan Afridi, 23, who was hit by an explosive projectile in Sehla.
"The reality is that no one cares (about traders)," added Al Namlaity.
"All officials can do is only talk. Even the orders of the Prime Minister are being flouted - HRH tells officials to take care of us, they say they will, but do nothing.”
"The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Tamkeen, ministries and other officials are all the same. We are tired."
Committee chairman Reyad Taher Al Mahroos, who runs a retail outlet in the suq, has had a total of 10 customers in the last seven days.
"I have been lucky because there are some who have had none (customers). They have done zero business. That is true for most traders in the suq," he said.
"We need help. We need someone to come to us to discuss our problems and solve them."
Trader Ali Majeed, who owns a chain of shops in Bahrain, said only one customer a day visited his outlets.
"I have seven shops in Bahrain - six in Manama and one in Muharraq and all six Manama shops have been suffering, but our Yateem Centre outlet is the worst," he added.
Bahman and Sons owner Sameer Bahman said he has sold an average of BD15 ($39.5) to BD20 worth of goods in the last three days.
"Three days before that, we had no customers and no business," explained Mr Bahman, whose family has one of the oldest known commercial registrations (Number 18) in the country.
"I am not even able to keep the lights in my shop on and do so when I see someone's coming.”
"How can we continue like this? Does no one see our plight? Where are the officials?"
Owner of Marsim stores Abdulkarim Al Fulaij challenged officials to examine the books of all traders in the suq, saying they have collectively had no or little business.
"Any government official, minister and any auditor can come and take a look at our books and our bank accounts and see for themselves," he said.
"We had one of the oldest shops in the suq, which we closed down more than a year ago and we will soon have to close our remaining branch."
Meanwhile, BCCI board member Abdulhameed Al Kooheji said Bahrain's small and medium enterprises have been the worst-affected in the last week.
"We were coming back as the economy was settling down, but the last few days have literally killed the positive sentiments," he stressed.
"We need all businesses to be functioning normal at this stage and certainly need many tourists including those from neighbouring Gulf countries."
Al Kooheji said some shop owners were threatened not to open for business during the previous weekend.
"There were some notes put on shops urging them not to open, but small traders cannot afford to close their businesses as their income is relatively on a small scale," he added.
The coalition of opposition groups last Thursday called for a day-long financial strike and asked supporters to boycott shopping malls and not conduct monetary transactions in an attempt to cripple the economy.
A BCCI survey showed that during the height of unrest in 2011, 97 per cent of local businesses were affected with 84.6 per cent reporting loss of income.
A total of 835 businesses had sought immediate aid from the BCCI over difficulties they faced, according to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) report.
The GDN had also reported that Bahrain's gold industry lost an estimated $1 million (BD378,000) a day when stores were forced to close between March 13 and 19, 2011. – TradeArabia News Service