Raising incomes 'key to reducing social tensions'
A PARLIAMENTARY candidate wants the private sector to step in to support low-income families - a move he says will help reduce tensions in poor neighbourhoods.
Mohammed Al Hawaj is running for a seat in the Manama constituency that hosted the bulk of anti-government protests in February and March.
Constituency three includes the old GCC (Pearl) Roundabout and surrounding areas such as Naim (where the Manama Central Market is located), Ghufool, Burhama and parts of the Manama suq.
A businessman himself, he suggested that it was not only the responsibility of the government to help raise incomes - adding authorities were already providing free health and education, as well as opportunities for housing.
"I will focus my programme on helping the family," he told the GDN.
"No-one wants political problems and having trouble in the streets and all this will be solved if we increase the income of the whole family.
"Bahraini people are good and we must all sit together in one group and solve our problems as one team."
He is proposing a scheme where the private sector would pay the government for the health and education costs of foreign workers and their families, with this money being directed to help poor Bahrainis.
"One of my main aims is to put a policy where students can get a monthly allowance of between BD50 and BD100 to encourage them to study hard and not to be absent," said Mr Al Hawaj.
"We must give the poor more help to go to good universities.
"We need to give child allowance for each newborn to help with food and clothing.
"We also need greater subsidises on municipality bills for low income families."
Running under the slogan "Bahrain is One Population, Not Two", Mr Al Hawaj said his campaign focused on unity and building a better Bahrain for all.
This includes easier access to higher quality, low-cost housing and he pointed out that many have to wait more than 10 years for government homes.
A director at his family business Miyar Construction, he was previously a training supervisor at the Labour Ministry.
However, this is not the first time he has stood for election.
He stood in municipal council elections last year, but finished second to a candidate from opposition group Al Wefaq.
"I was number two, I got 17pc of the votes and someone from Al Wefaq won, but Al Wefaq are not running this time, so I thought it is a chance for me," he said.
"We would like to change parliament and to have young people inside.
"I am 36 and I understand the needs of young people and I can deliver for young people.
"The majority of Bahraini people are young and we are supposed to share their ideas in parliament."
However, he admitted he did not expect all voters to turn out - particularly with some areas witnessing clashes between rioters and police.
"Some people are too scared to go outside because of the fighting," explained Mr Al Hawaj.
Meanwhile, he saluted the decision on Monday to release 16 suspects facing charges in the National Safety Court.
He said several of those released were from his area and this might encourage voters.
"Maybe by releasing more people from jail the people would feel happy and like to vote," he said.