Pledge to protect local businesses

MPs have approved two major legislations to restrict foreign investments and prioritise Bahrainisation in the private sector.

They approved amendments to the 2001 Commercial Companies Law that would impose a minimum capital of BD350,000 on foreign investors, during Parliament’s weekly session yesterday.

Under the amendments, which the government will be obliged to draft as proper legislation within six months, they also want to limit the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister’s power to exempt foreign companies from any minimum payment.

Parliament’s financial and economic affairs committee is recommending the move despite objections from the government that it would greatly harm foreign investment and moves to attract capital.

MPs also approved amendments to 2012 Private Sector Employment Law to force employers to check the lists of jobseekers at the Labour and Social Development Ministry and employ available Bahrainis.

Employers found cheating the system would be fined between BD5,000 and BD20,000 per contractual offence.

The ministry and the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry have objected to the proposal saying it interfered with the relationship between employers and employees, and what’s more appropriate for running a company.

Speaking on the investments move, Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry Commerce Under-Secretary Eman Al Dossary told MPs it would harm business and affect the progress of economic development.

“We are open to business and are working to attract numerous investments in multiple sectors and this move will restrict our moves towards a stronger economy,” he said.

A Central Bank of Bahrain official said it would also indirectly harm the flow of money into the country as foreign capital.

Parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairman Mahmood Al Bahrani said Bahrain was favouring quantity for quality.

“Small-quantity investments are harming local businessmen as that type of competition by particular nationalities, in cold stores and cafeterias, for instance, is driving Bahrainis out of the market,” he said.

“We have nothing against quality investments and through this legislation we are trying to achieve that.”

Mamdooh Al Saleh said small-amount foreign investments were killing micro, small and medium businesses, while draining Tamkeen’s coffers.

“The BD500 and BD1,000 foreign investments is not what the government should attract because those expat heads just apply to Tamkeen for financial support that instead should go to Bahrainis.”

Bahrain Bloc president Ahmed Al Salloom said he was not against the concept of the cap, just the amount.

“There are amendments to investment legislations presented by the Shura Council that are more comprehensive and could see proper caps set for each sector rather than a blanket cap.”

Education Minister and acting Parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Dr Majid Al Nuaimi said the government was working to protect the market and also get Bahrainis jobs as a priority.

“We are keen to prevent any damage to local businesses and the labour market,” he said.

Parliament first vice-chairman Abdulnabi Salman said the local labour was in turmoil without a preference for Bahrainis.

“The flexi permit system needs a review to ensure Bahrainis are not put in unfair competition as businessmen or employees.”

Labour and Social Development Ministry Assistant Under-Secretary for Labour Affairs Ahmed Al Hayki dismissed accusations that advertised good-pay jobs were hoax.

“We have a database and employment flow that is documented and computerised and MPs can check our system by themselves.”




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