Bahrain firms urge stop to street violence
Manama, March 27, 2012
Bahrain is facing an impending economic catastrophe unless action is taken to stop ongoing street violence, said a top official, adding that hundreds of jobs will be at risk.
Small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will be particularly hit if the campaign of tyre-burning and Molotov cocktail attacks on police continues, said Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) second vice-chairman Abdulhameed Al Kooheji.
Failure to act will have serious consequences for those who lose their jobs and their families and a long-term affect on the country's psyche, he said.
"The situation in the last few years has not been encouraging and it does not seem to be improving," he told our sister publication the Gulf Daily News.
"The global economic meltdown and later the political situation in the country have taken their toll. Businesses are now thinking of downsizing in the interests of staying afloat."
Al Kooheji said as long as people outside Bahrain carry on seeing pictures of violence on social media sites and foreign television channels they will not visit the country.
"And the economy will never take off unless they return," he said. "Hundreds of job losses could result and I fear that stage is not far off. Those who are indulging in acts of sabotage and terror are harming themselves and their country. They will never get out of this unscathed."
The latest violence took place last Friday when opposition groups held 11 rallies across Bahrain which led to rioting in Jidhafs, Khamis, Tubli, Duraz, Sitra, Saar and Budaiya.
Six government schools were also attacked with stones and firebombs.
A separate demonstration held by the Al Fateh Youth Coalition took place in Hidd to oppose potential talks with opposition groups until street violence ends.
Al Kooheji said for many it was a choice between laying people off and staying in business or closing down.
"Everyone wants to stay in business and save their companies, so the only alternative is to cut costs," he said. "And when it comes to that, cutting jobs is the easiest thing to do because one cannot cut down on salaries and the working capital.
"So if one has 10 employees, they cut down to five and save on salaries. Hundreds of job losses could result."
Al Kooheji said the consequences for the families of those affected would be devastating.
"The employees' children, their dependents and social circle would all be affected and it would lead to a situation that would be difficult to come out from," he said.
The business leader fears that stage could be just round the corner. "If things do not improve soon, we will be forced into that stage and that would be a pity," he said.
"We do not want to reach that stage so we have to realise we need to save the country's economy."
BCCI retail and traditional markets committee chairman Jawad Al Hawaj said it would be painful, but the inevitable step for companies was to cut jobs.
"There could be many job losses since the economy is struggling and the worst affected will be the SMEs," he said. "The bigger companies can tolerate the impact for more time but ultimately, they will also be affected."
The BCCI board member said while there were some indications the situation was getting better a lot needed to be done.
"We have to ensure we get the visitors back to Bahrain and perk up the economy so that businesses are saved from the painful decision of having to cut staff," he said. – TradeArabia News Service