MANAMA: The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) has refuted claims that changes proposed to its laws will marginalise small and medium businesses.

A BCCI official told the GDN that “certain proposals have been misunderstood and sensationalised by a few individuals who created a negative mindset in the public eye”.

“The main objective of the proposed revisions to rules governing the BCCI is to restore the chamber’s independence from the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Ministry,” he said.

“The minister’s authority to dismiss BCCI board is only in extreme case of major crisis and when BCCI actions are causing harm to Bahrain’s economic policies.”

Such a decision would also need the Cabinet’s approval, asserted the BCCI official.

Talking about the allocation of voting rights (number of votes) being brought in line with paid-up capital, the official said this was done to correct existing system which greatly reduces big company voting rights.

“This proposed amendment is to bring the voting to be more in line with voting allocation before the Law 48 of 2012.”

Meanwhile, Bahrain Small and Medium Enterprises Society board member Hisham Matar said he was concerned that with the changes to the laws the BCCI would no longer remain an independent voice of the private sector.

Reiterating fears raised by some business owners as reported in Akhbar Al Khaleej yesterday, he said the draft law favours big companies and businessmen against smaller enterprises.

“We have been given to understand that the number of votes that certain big businesses have will go up from around 10 now to 1,000 under the new rules. I don’t think that is fair.”

He also said some traders are calling for setting up a separate chamber to protect the rights of small businesses as they feel the BCCI is failing in its duty as a defender of the interests of the business community.

“SMEs represent more than 80 per cent of the total number of commercial registrations and their rights need to be protected,” he said.

The GDN yesterday quoted the parliament’s public utilities committee chairman Ahmed Al Demistani as saying that small business owners had approached MPs to convey their grievances over the proposal.

He said MPs will soon form a committee to discuss the law before presenting it to Parliament.

This comes after it was announced on Friday that changes have been proposed to laws governing Bahrain’s main business body.

Besides introducing a new voting system for its members, the government-drafted amendments give the Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister the right to dissolve Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s board in case it deviates from adopted state policies and contravenes national interests.

MPs will vote on the amendments at their weekly session tomorrow, where they are set to refer the bill to its financial and economic affairs committee or return it back to the Cabinet.


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