Move to extend Bahrain's wage support programme

Three-month lifeline covered 12 sectors which benefited from 100% wage payments to the local workforce for June

  
A Central Bank of Bahrain official shows a new BD$20 (Bahraini 20 Dinars Note) on the first day of its release in Bahraini capital of Manama

A Central Bank of Bahrain official shows a new BD$20 (Bahraini 20 Dinars Note) on the first day of its release in Bahraini capital of Manama

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

A proposal to extend wage support for Bahrainis in the private sector has been tabled by MPs.

In June this year, the government announced a BD485 million economic stimulus package to support sectors hardest hit by the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The three-month lifeline covered 12 sectors which benefited from 100 per cent wage payments to the local workforce for June and a further 50pc to cover July and August. The support expires tomorrow.

The sectors include training and rehabilitation (including kindergartens), retail sector (excluding foodstuff), travel and tourism, restaurants and hospitality, personal services (salons, gyms, play areas and entertainment), local newspapers and magazines, administrative services (public relations, media and event organisers), industrial, health (excluding clinics and hospitals), transportation, real estate and engineering, technical and construction offices.

Businesses that proved eligibility for wage support other than mentioned were also helped, apart from those operating in the financial, telecommunications, scientific, professional and technology sectors, alongside private universities and schools.

“The government’s intervention after Covid-19 cases jumped to above 3,000 in May has thankfully prevented sectors from sliding into dark tunnels,” said Parliament public utilities and environment affairs committee chairman Mohammed Buhamood, who is spearheading the proposal.

“The market is being stabilised and there is satisfactory-to-good visitation rates from the King Fahad Causeway.

“Things are recovering; so it is not the time to let go.

“The wage support for Bahrainis is giving the 12 hard-hit sectors a chance to breathe and the moment the support stops employers are bound to make their workers redundant to reduce costs.”

Mr Buhamood said the proposal, backed by several MPs, would help meet operational and administrative costs.

“We are asking for 100pc wage support, 50pc would be a compromise solution.

“After all, the government can’t go on withdrawing from funds, with no one knowing what more difficult times the future holds.

“The 50pc wage support should continue from September to November and then reviewed.”

He hoped the Cabinet will take a decision on the issue today to ensure that “Bahrainis are not given their marching orders”.

“The cost of unemployment would be much higher than the wage support plan.”

The government spent BD4.5 billion last year to help individuals and businesses affected by the pandemic, including paying the wages of Bahrainis in the private sector – in full or half – from April to December over three periods.

The GDN reported in April that unemployment rates increased from 4.7pc to 5pc due to the impact of Covid-19 last year.

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