CHANGE IS IN THE AIR

By REBECCA TORR,  Posted on » Wednesday, November 18, 2009

 MANAMA: Change is in the air at the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), following the election of its new board on Monday. There are plans to be more proactive in lobbying parliament and the Shura Council on behalf of the private sector, as well as make it a more dynamic body more in tune with the younger business community

Thirteen of the 18 seats up for grabs have been won by the Economic Bloc, which ran with a pledge to come up with a new strategic vision for the chamber in line with Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030.

It also vowed to enhance the chamber’s role in protecting members’ interests, as well as provide support and orientation to young businessmen and women.

Retail outlets chief executive officer at Ali Rashid Al Amin Company, Khalid Al Amin, 41, is the youngest member of the new BCCI board.

He was confident the chamber would be transformed into a hi-tech body in line with a new breed of businessman and woman.

“We have got all the support from (former chamber president) Dr Esam Fakhro and other board members to change things,” Mr Al Amin, who has served on various BCCI committees over the past eight years, told the GDN yesterday.

“We will go to the youth, to the women, for the high-technology and to work with the government.

“We hope our efforts will benefit all trade and industry.”

The new board, which will sit for a four-year term, will meet over the next two weeks to allocate positions before drawing up its objectives for the coming four years.

It is dominated by members of the Economic Bloc, but two candidates from the Future Building Bloc and three independents have also won seats – meaning their priorities will also have to be taken into account.

The highest number of votes (1,387) went to first time board member Kadem Al Saeed, who is Utopia Real Estate chairman and former general manager at the Bahrain Exhibition and Convention Authority (BECA).

He was an independent candidate who expressed his delight at securing so many votes.

“I am going to do my best and give the experience I have with the exhibition industry,” said Mr Al Saeed, who previously served as a member on a joint committee of the BCCI and the Industry and Commerce Ministry.

“I want to see Bahrain do well in the Arab world and improve the exhibition industry and promote Bahrain, like with having the Made in Bahrain exhibition and the Wonders of Gold exhibition.”

Another independent candidate who did well was Mohammad Sajid Sheikh, who secured the third highest number of votes with 1,245.

The Al Jabriya Group managing director said he planned to push the Bahraini gold sector, but would work hard on behalf of the private sector in general.

“I want to take the goldsmith industry forward because there is a lot of potential in this sector and I know how to promote Bahrain as a gold market,” he said.

“Bahrain is already famous for gold, but for a few years it was not given the right attention and other countries in the GCC started coming up – but I think we can bring it back on track.”

Meanwhile, returning board member and Economic Bloc candidate Othman Sharif it was important to get some “new blood” into the chamber – but warned the BCCI would not give up its opposition to government changes to the labour market.

“We have to prepare for the future to contribute in all economic issues,” said Mr Sharif, who is chairman of the Sharif Group.

“The biggest challenge we have is there are certain laws, such as labour laws, and this is a challenge we need to negotiate with parliament.

“Another issue is related to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) and Tamkeen – we need to study the labour fees and the affects on the private sector.

“With Tamkeen is the issue of training and increasing productivity of companies and establishments that really suffered.”

Another returning board member and Economic Bloc candidate, Afnan Al Zayani, said the financial crisis had affected Bahrain’s small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which were finding it difficult to secure finance, and said the chamber would do its best to support them.

“We at the chamber want to train and support SMEs and improve their skills and productivity,” said Ms Al Zayani, who is Zayani Commercial Services president.

“Vision 2030 is very important and the challenge is to align companies with legislative bodies.

“We are waiting for the Economic Development Board (EDB) to give us a plan for Vision 2030 which will show how to fulfil this national vision.”

She added it was important for the chamber to take a more active role in advising parliament and the Shura Council on anything involving the private sector – revealing plans to hire lawyers and consultants to study reforms and other issues to help shape the decision making process.

Although she said it was against the chamber’s bylaws and Article of Association to offer political support to parliamentary candidates, she added there was a need for more businessmen and women to run for election next year.

“We need business people that have a political background so they can lobby, or politicians that can understand business, or we could create alliances with politicians,” she said.

Other board members to be elected for 2009-2013 were Dr Esam Fakhro, Adel Al Saffer, Adel Al A’ali, Jawad Al Hawaj, Ibrahim Al Daisi, Khalaf Hujjair, Abdulhameed Al Kooheji, Sameer Nass, Hassan Kamal, Isa Abdulraheem Al Riffai, Nabeel Kanoo, Ibrahim Zainal and Saqer Shaheen.

Ahlam Janahi and Abdulhakeem Al Shummari are reserve members.

A total of 37,213 votes were cast and 26 were disqualified. For more information about the BCCI and its new board, visit www.bcci.bh/election.

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