Bahrain's expat levy: adding salt to the wound?
A total of 5,000 businessmen in Bahrain have signed a petition against the reintroduction of a tax on foreign workers.
They claim they are still struggling to stay afloat due to economic downturns and financial problems caused by the unrest in 2011, reported the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
The government announced last month that the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) would start collecting the fees from employers.
Each company is supposed to pay BD10 ($26.38) a month for each expatriate employee and BD200 to renew their work permits, but the tax was shelved in April, 2011 to help businesses recover from the effects of unrest.
The business community launched the petition last Sunday, even though the fees have been halved for companies with not more than five foreign workers.
Businessman Hisham Mattar, who is spearheading the campaign, submitted the signed petition to the office of HRH Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa yesterday.
"We in the business community are calling upon the government to immediately freeze the fees as it is putting us under immense pressure because of the economic situation," said Mattar, who is also a Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) member.
"We submitted the petition along with a cover letter stating the demands of the businessmen regarding the LMRA fees to the Prime Minister's office.
"It is our sincere request to the Prime Minster to put on hold the LMRA fees as this issue needs to be reviewed."
Mattar said businessmen are expected to receive LMRA invoices in the coming days, meaning if they do not pay the levy their commercial registrations will be frozen.
"If we do not pay this then our commercial registration will be frozen and we cannot do any business transactions or hire foreign workers," he said. "We are then treated as criminals as our case is then referred to the Public Prosecution."
He said more businessmen are expected to sign a second petition, which will be launched soon. "There are plans to launch a second petition similar to the first one that will have new names of members from the business community."
The money collected from LMRA fees helps fund Tamkeen projects to train the workforce and support entrepreneurs. The BCCI and traders protested against the fees even before the unrest impacted their profi
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