Shura urges wages help to continue

A CALL to continue the wage support packages for Bahrainis in the private sector went out from the Shura Council yesterday.

It came as members of the upper chamber unanimously approved two royal decrees issued by His Majesty King Hamad during the National Assembly recess.

They allowed the government to withdraw money from the Unemployment Fund to pay 50 per cent of the salaries of Bahrainis in sectors affected by Covid-19, from July until December last year.

Initially, the government paid 100pc of the wages of all Bahraini employees in the private sector from April to June 2020 under a BD4.3 billion stimulus package that included free electricity and water, a waiver of municipal and labour fees, and rent exemption on government property.

Shura legislative and legal affairs committee chairwoman Dalal Al Zayed said the government needed a new, longer term package to continue the wage support package from this month until a proper recovery.

“The withdrawals from the Unemployment Fund have helped secure jobs which, as Labour and Social Development Ministry officials have said, saw the lowest number of dismissals in 2020,” she said.

“Tamkeen (Labour Fund) wage support programmes were redirected to affected businesses and individuals under a Business Continuation Progamme, not to overlap with the wage support programme from the Unemployment Fund.

“The government now can either continue the Tamkeen wage support programme or seek legislative approval for more withdrawals from the Unemployment Fund for at least six more months.”

Meanwhile, financial and economic affairs committee chairman Khalid Al Maskati underlined the government efforts to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“However, the country still needs further financial injections,” he added.

“The Unemployment Fund has BD508m in its coffers and an urgent legislation to withdraw money from the fund to support Bahrainis’ wages could be made by the government and we will support it.”

Shura services committee chairwoman Dr Jihad Al Fadhel said the Unemployment Fund should continue being the safety valve it has been over the past year.

“The fund is in good shape and it should contribute towards insuring the economy, through the continuation of wage support,” she said.

Parliament financial and economic affairs committee chairman Mahmood Al Bahrani told the GDN the government was working on a new wage support package, but no details were disclosed.

“We have been told that there is something coming, it has to be quick, since there are less than two weeks till the end of the month,” he said.

“Even if backdated, the wage support would be a sigh of relief to businesses.”

Shura first vice-chairman Jamal Fakhro said swift decisions were needed.

“Agreed, Bahrain is a free-nature business, but without support businesses will go bankrupt,” he said.

“This is not the time to spend on thinking; support packages need to be introduced.

“The cost is much higher nowadays and many are being forced to shut down businesses as they can’t afford to run them.”




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