|23 October, 2019

New call to replace expatriate workers in Bahrain

According to official statistics there are between 10,000 and 12,000 unemployed Bahrainis: MP

Bahrain Financial Harbour (L) and Bahrain World Trade Center are are seen in diplomatic area in Manama, Bahrain, February 28, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose.

Bahrain Financial Harbour (L) and Bahrain World Trade Center are are seen in diplomatic area in Manama, Bahrain, February 28, 2018. Image used for illustrative purpose.

REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed

MPs have repeated calls for more Bahrainis to enter the workforce at the expense of expatriates.

One yesterday proposed forming a new Bahrainisation Ministry, tasked with increasing the number of nationals in jobs.

That suggestion was tabled by MP Hamad Al Kooheji, who claimed some Bahrainis were being paid below the minimum salary.

“There has to be a ministry for Bahrainisation to take up the issue of replacing expats with Bahrainis in the private and government sectors,” he said during parliament’s meeting yesterday.

“There are many people still getting below BD200 a month – and one woman getting BD99, which is disrespectful.”

Those claims were disputed by parliament chairwoman Fouzia Zainal, although she did advocate expanding the list of goods exempt from VAT.

“I don’t think anyone is getting such a low salary,” she said.

“I hope the information is wrong because people’s dignity and interests are vital to us.

“But VAT exemptions have to include more than the 94 commodities (at present) to help people maintain standards of living.”

The topic was opened as MPs debated 10 government replies to proposals, which included replacing 90pc of expats in government jobs within four years and scrapping VAT for a year.

Authorities have already branded the VAT suggestion illegal.

MP Ali Ishaqi claimed that up to 200,000 jobs in Bahrain that should be filled by Bahrainis were being done by expats.

“There are around 800,000 expats in Bahrain,” he said.

“If we exclude 300,000 dependants and others there are more than 500,000 expats occupying jobs in the private and government sectors.

“We can say 300,000 expats are doing jobs that Bahrainis don’t want.

“However, there are 200,000 jobs that Bahrainis can easily fill like technicians, surveyors and gardeners.

“According to official statistics there are between 10,000 and 12,000 unemployed Bahrainis.”

He claimed the jobs situation should only take a matter of “two or three months” to resolve, questioned how VAT revenue was being spent and said action was needed to address alleged problems in key sectors.

Other questions were raised about the success of government training programmes for jobseekers.

“The government says 15,000 Bahrainis have benefited from training courses and received certificates from the Labour and Social Development Ministry,” said MP Sayed Falah Hashim.

“But when they present them to private and government bodies, including the Civil Service Bureau (CSB), they (the certificates) are not acceptable.

“Thousands of Bahrainis are being trained in basics from 20 to 60 hours – in English, computers and other basics – to equip them for vacancies, but only tens are being employed.

“This is despite several jobs in gardening, welding, computers and engineering still being occupied by expats.”

He made the comments despite a National Employment Programme being launched in February, with the target of recruiting 25,000 Bahrainis in the private sector by the end of this year.

Earlier this month it emerged 17,700 positions had been filled so far.

Yet parliament first vice-chairman MP Abdulnabi Salman voiced similar concerns.

“The country is facing issues due to unemployment, poverty and the early voluntary retirement scheme – which unfortunately an MP wants to reopen for others,” he said.

However, CSB human resources development and performance director general Adel Ibrahim said career advancement policies required time to bear fruit.

“We can’t make replacements in government jobs overnight,” he said.

“We have started leadership programmes with the Bahrain Institute for Public Administration (Bipa) for those in higher ranks.

“Gradually we want to see Bahrainis being employed under them.

“No expat in a government job is being trained – and there are several contracts that we have refused to renew. I don’t have numbers, but there are many.

“We are not seeking additional budgets, but we are working internally on getting Bahrainis employed.”

Meanwhile, parliament and Shura Council Affairs Minister Ghanim Al Buainain reminded MPs that Bahrainis continue to benefit from subsidised rates for electricity, water and free health services.

mohammed@gdn.com.bh

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