Sudden rises in rent have caused a major setback for small businesses in Bahrain.
Business owners have expressed concern at the rental increases enforced by the Municipalities and Urban Planning Affairs Ministry, at the third consultative meeting between the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
"We've been imposed a monthly rent since the beginning of the year by the ministry," said Isa Ahmed Ali Khuzam, who owns a carpentry business in Arad.
"We're asked to pay BD729 monthly now, unlike the last 25 years, when we paid a yearly rent," he told the GDN," he said.
"We cannot afford such an amount every month. We need to be billed annually.
"It has virtually brought our business to a standstill," he added.
SMEs committee chairman Khalaf Hejair promised that prospects for small businesses will improve in the near future, following discussions with the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and the Prime Minister.
"We have held several meetings with the LMRA after His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa issued orders to look into complaints of the business community and urged that we work hard to solve them."
He also pledged support for businesses hit hard by the rent increases and said the BCCI will work with the ministry and other government agencies to resolve the problem.
"There has been a big concern from businessmen about the sudden rise in rent," said Mr Hejair.
"Many of the businesses will see a difference in the near future and most of the problems will be solved," he added.
The ministry came under criticism from BCCI officials and traders for not taking part in the consultative meeting.
"Businessmen are concerned that the ministry and its employees are not attending these meetings, despite previous confirmation of attendance," said Mr Hejair.
"The BCCI, the ministry and General Organisation of Social Insurance (Gosi) were to gather today," BCCI arbitration and trade disputes committee chairman Khalid Ali Al Ameen said.
"Unfortunately, Gosi sent a letter apologising that they were busy but the ministry didn't show up.
"These meetings are to look into the problems of the traders' community," added Mr Al Ameen, who also heads the business youth committee.
"The traders say that there is a lot of delay when it comes to getting their paperwork done.
"They say that they don't know which ministry or department is responsible for the task.
"They keep getting shuffled from place to place.
"There is a miscommunication and it has to be cleared up at such general meetings.
"The gathering here was so upset because the ministry did not show up without notice.
"Maybe, there's an emergency that held them from coming.
"But if there is no such thing, then it is a problem if ministry doesn't show up to look into traders' interests," he added. firstname.lastname@example.org