Periodic pay review call to assess impact of inflation

LEGISLATORS have called on the government to review salaries in the public and private sectors every five years to assess the impact of inflation and boost citizens’ standards of living.

It followed a debate between MPs and two ministers on government policies for wages.

The last pay rise for civil servants was granted in 2011.

Parliament second deputy speaker Ahmed Qarata urged his colleagues not to remain silent – claiming that the country’s citizens would soon be either rich or poor, with the ‘middle class fast disappearing’. He attributed it to the absence of a wage review to match the rising cost of living.

“The government must probe and review wages and salaries every five years, and make the necessary increases to help citizens,” he said.

Mr Qarata also claimed that several Bahrainis were unemployed and that government should fast-track measures to ease their burden.

He was backed by MP Bassema Mubarak, who called for a ‘decent’ pay for citizens.

“A top economic researcher recently said that BD600 a month would be enough for a family to meet basic needs,” she said. “What if they have multiple loans, commitments and financial obligations and that’s why we need a review of salaries every five years,” she added.

MP Waleed Al Dossary alluded to the cost of a shopping basket to highlight inflationary concerns.

“If a basket of groceries and other items from supermarkets cost BD80 a few years earlier, it now drains out BD150 from your pocket,” he said.

“Wages for civil servants were increased 12 years ago, it was a jackpot then, but the prices of essentials started increasing the following year,” he added. “I believe, private sector employees have not seen a pay rise for years, or have been probably granted a minimum hike.”

Parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairman Mohammed Al Ahmed said talks would be held with the government to include pay rises in the 2023-2024 state budget.

“We see an opportunity to make a change, but the government needs to include wages in the two-year national budget,” he said.

Committee member Jalal Kadhem said many educated people in Bahrain wished they were poor enough to claim more subsidies.

“The average wage for a secondary school or university graduate is $1,000, while foreigners are given up to $5,000 for the same jobs here,” he alleged. “While the poor and the needy receive subsidies, those belonging to the middle class do not earn enough to live a good life.”

Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain, who is politically responsible for the Civil Service Commission, acknowledged that pay rises were accorded to civil servants 12 years ago. He, however, added that several incentives and allowances were granted to them over the last few years.

Labour Minister Jameel Humaidan, who is also the Labour Market Regulatory Authority board chairman, said a new scheme for social science graduates would be initiated in partnership with the Bahrain Polytechnic. It would see students receiving ample training before entering the labour market, he added.

Referring to certain low-paid jobs, claimed by MPs, Mr Humaidan indicated that wages also depended on the hours of work.

“For example, a Bahraini canteen worker in schools, who shows up for just two hours a week, may be receiving BD80 to BD100,” he said.

“We are not happy about such wages and we are seeking to have more jobs in industrial, health and education sectors as it will help the country to recover fast from the Covid-19 pandemic.”

A debate on jobs for physical education university graduates has been postponed following a no-show by Education Minister Dr Mohammed Mubarak Juma.




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