Bahrain contractors slam LMRA fee
Manama, August 29, 2010
Scores of Bahrainis last night signed a petition against "crippling" government fees for expatriate workers as part of the latest drive to have them scrapped.
The businessmen, who are spearheading a campaign against the Labour Market Regulatory Authority's (LMRA) BD10 monthly charge for each expatriate worker, said they hoped to get thousands of signatures.
It is due to be sent to His Majesty King Hamad after Eid, said a report in the Gulf Daily News.
"This is a very significant moment in our approach to get this fee scrapped," said Nader Alawi, a spokesman for the businessmen. "Now that we have started this process, we will continue to get these signatures every day."
Alawi was speaking after a symposium held by the businessmen at the Bahrain Medical Society, Juffair.
The event, during which several businessmen highlighted their problems, was held to coincide with the launch of the petition.
Those attending spoke about how the fee had affected their businesses in the last two years and how they had been forced to cut staff.
"We are also going to present His Majesty with evidence of how our families are suffering and how we are forced to lead a hand-to-mouth existence," said Alawi.
He said the businessmen would also suggest an alternative to the government to calculate the LMRA fee based on a percentage of each expatriate's salary.
"For example, we pay BD10 for every employee whether he gets BD60 or earns BD10,000 per month," Alawi told the Gulf Daily News.
"This is unfair and mainly affects the smaller businessmen. The fee should be paid on a percentage of the salary and there should be complete exemption for wages up to a certain level."
The symposium also touched on how Bahrainis were struggling to earn a living amid harsh economic conditions caused by the global financial crisis, a situation businessmen say has been aggravated by the imposition of the fee.
The BD10 monthly fee applies to every expatriate working in Bahrain and has been collected by the LMRA on behalf of the government since July 2008.
Businessmen began protesting a few months after the fee was imposed, claiming it was unfair and would result in the closure of many businesses.
Bahrain's contractors also last night declared they had nothing more to give to the LMRA.
Terming it 'bloodthirsty', they lashed out at the LMRA for sucking blood out of contractors over the last two years.
'We have no blood left. We have no blood to give. What should we do?,' Lion Construction Establishment general manager Hisham Mattar asked.
'We have suffered a lot. Our families are on the street and we are being treated as criminals and taken to the Public Prosecution if we do not pay up. What kind of justice is this?' he said, speaking on behalf of the contractors, who met for a symposium at the Bahrain Medical Society, Juffair.
'We are penniless and still the government gives even the smallest of contracts to a group of chosen few contractors,' he said. 'If they want to help us, they should give contracts to us and not to their favoured few.
'On top of this is the BD10 fee. We have nowhere to go now and this petition to His Majesty is our only hope.
More than 120 people, who attended, signed the petition last night. - TradeArabia News Service