Visa Crunch

Bahrain Chamber ‘Will Campaign To Scrap Flexi Visa’: Bahrain

While the government is looking to tighten up regulations governing the expatriate employment option, the Bahrain Chamber would campaign to ‘do away’ with it.

Studies have convinced top Bahraini traders of the need to scrap the flexible visa system in the country, according to a senior businessman.

While the government is looking to tighten up regulations governing the expatriate employment option, the Bahrain Chamber would campaign to ‘do away’ with it, said the Chamber’s outgoing chairman Sameer Nass as counting took place, if his block continues to lead the organisation forward.

The controversial flexible visa introduced by the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) in 2017, allows holders to take up freelance employment with multiple employers. MPs in the past have repeatedly called the government to reconsider continuing with the system, claiming it wreaks havoc for local businesses and promotes unfair competition.

“We have carried out a very comprehensive study regarding LMRA challenges and the problems Bahraini businessmen and women face,” Mr Nass told the GDN ahead of casting his votes at the 30th Bahrain Chamber polls yesterday.

“The lion’s share of concerns raised from that study involved issues surrounding the Flexi visa.

“We produced a 600-page detailed report on its effect on the economy, the social structure and on business competition.

“We have also been involved in negotiations with the government regarding the flexi permit.

“The government came up with the recommendation of having some kind of control and checks, with stricter conditions. However, our ultimate ambition is to do away with it. In my opinion, it is still a work in progress.”

Mr Nass also dismissed claims that Bahraini Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) were not represented well on the chamber’s board. The GDN reported earlier that members of a second bloc contesting the polls – Riyadah 22 – cited an alleged widening ‘gap’ between the chamber and SMEs.

“Any, if not all legislations concerning the economy and business community doesn’t differentiate between small, medium or large companies,”

he said.

“The majority of our programmes over the last four years have addressed the concerns of small and medium enterprises, accounting to at least 80 per cent of the total. Every study that we have produced fully involves SMEs.”

Mr Nass said his team had prepared well for the election and was optimistic about his bloc making it to the 30th board of the only official body representing Bahraini traders.

Meanwhile, Riyadah’s 22-strong bloc founder Ebrahim K Ebrahim, chief executive of Fintech Robos, reiterated a strong resolve to further support SMEs as they help drive the economy into the future.

“As Riyadah we primarily stand for the SMEs,”

he said.

“We feel they’ve been marginalised over the last few years, especially with an unfair change, in my opinion, whereby the number of votes is decided by the size of capital which reduces the representation of SMEs, a sector representing 70 or 80pc of jobs and growth in the national economy.

“We would like to give them a bigger voice and my expectation is that Riyadah, which is trying to challenge the status quo, will make some penetrative inroads in the chamber.”

Mr Ebrahim added that even with four or five members of the bloc winning seats, the team would provide a bigger voice for SMEs.

“Anyone who wants to empower SMEs knows that the current laws favour the high capital companies – the big family businesses.”

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