Bahrain - New businesses, mainly karak tea shops, could be obliged to get consent from the General Directorate of Traffic before being issued commercial registrations (CRs) to operate in busy areas.The Southern Municipal Council earlier this year approved a proposal to ensure that thorough background checks were made before CRs were issued to avoid potential parking and traffic flow issues.

Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Alzayani dismissed the suggestion and said that it would create unnecessary complications and delays in conducting business.

Representatives from Bahrain’s three municipal councils and the Capital Trustees Board met yesterday to underline possible solutions to the ongoing traffic congestion witnessed around commercial and residential areas.

This follows numerous public complaints about uncaring commuters parking in the middle of busy thoroughfares to buy karak tea, fruits and grills on their way to and from work.

A CR is currently issued electronically by the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry, following approvals by ministries and government bodies concerned.

However, it doesn’t require any specific security approval or research on the consequences of a business operating in a specific area, except a permit from the Interior Ministry’s General Directorate of Civil Defence.“The CR is issued electronically in five days maximum after approvals from the Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning, and Health Ministries, alongside the General Directorate of Civil Defence,” said Southern Municipal Council chairman Bader Al Tamimi, who called for the meeting.

“Adding the General Directorate of Traffic wouldn’t be much of a delay to ensure the sought-after location can handle an influx of cars, has wide enough roads and adequate parking,” he added.

“There is a grave problem nowadays associated with new businesses serving the same purpose, sometimes all located in the same lane. People just park in the middle of the road obstructing, blocking and stopping the normal traffic flow.”

He added that no one was against the freedom of trade but it should be properly organised.“Six to seven karak tea shops, five fruits and vegetables shops, and three to four tikka and kebab grills within a 150-metre distance becomes an issue of nuisance,” said Mr Al Tamimi.“Everyone wants to be served in their car and people refuse to park up properly and walk to their chosen outlet. To make matters worse some not only wait to get their orders, they insist on blocking the road as they eat and drink their purchases in their cars,” he explained.

“There was an incident this month in East Riffa in which an ambulance had to wait for 15 minutes because the road was blocked and even the pavements had vehicles parked inconsiderably as customers sat in ignorance eating grilled liver.“It takes time for traffic police to arrive at the scene to disperse them and issue tickets. God knows how many people have lost their lives because of that.”

Meanwhile, Muharraq Municipal Council member Ahmed Al Meghawi agreed that the suggestion of adding the Traffic Directorate’s approval could help resolve some of the problems ... but public attitude remains an issue.“Customers parked in the middle of the road as they order karak tea, ask for a water melon to be cut, or skewers of tikka, kebab and liver grills prove problematic considering how narrow the space is, especially in old Muharraq. This issue needs to be addressed,” he said.

“Getting the Traffic Directorate’s consent before a business opens is a good approach but it is always about public awareness on what is acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.”He added that other kinds of businesses to open, such as hairdressers, salons, nurseries and kindergartens, the concerned councils’ approval is necessary.“We have never delayed businesses and hairdressers and nurseries, for example, are approved under specific conditions,” said Mr Al Meghawi.

“Council permission is not necessary in the case of shops and we don’t want to take up that responsibility, but we believe government bodies concerned, like traffic, need to be a part of the decision-making, especially regarding the current chaos that has seen us bombarded with hundreds of complaints from members of the public.”Each council will make its own decision on what they consider to be the best move forward this month before forwarding the suggestions to Mr Alzayani for review.

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