Gulf businessmen slam GCC residency cap

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Dubai, Oct 8 (UNI) A GCC proposal for a six-year residency cap on unskilled expatriate workers has been slammed by Gulf businessmen saying it will hamper projects and make Gulf an unattractive employment destination at a time when the region is already facing shortage of trained workers.

The plan announced by Bahrain Minister of Labour Majeed Al Alawi recently, is part of measures of check the influx of foreign workers which he says erodes the national character of the GCC states.

The Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry yesterday warned that the proposal could not apply to the markets in the GCC and threatened their stability and recalled that the GCC Summit in Manama rejected a similar suggestion in 2005.

Businessmen in the UAE said it would create a shortage of trained personnel and affect the labour market.

Datamatix Managing Director Ali Al Kamali fears the proposal would aggravate the labour problem. ''There is already a shortage of trained workers. How can a company replace an experienced person who has completed six years in the middle of a major project?'' Damas group Managing director Mohammad Tamjid Abdullah said that ''People may decide against coming here and those who come will not have an incentive to give their best.'' Omar Mohammad Osman, owner of a contracting company in Abu Dhabi added that ''In the GCC, we find that maintaining the culture and identity against an influx of [foreign] labour presents a hurdle governments must overcome, but the price of adopting such policies will always be the stability of the labour market.'' In Oman, some business leaders called for a careful evaluation of the proposal, and others felt that companies would be reluctant to invest in training programmes.

''The proposal could work, but it needs careful study," Chairman of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry Khalil Bin Abdullah Al Khonji, told Gulf News. Citing similar laws in Singapore and Cyprus, he said a six-year cap was adequate in the Gulf.

Shaikh Nasser Al Hosni, a Majlis Ashura member, businessman and former member of the Oman Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the six-year cap could work against businesses but also felt that it would generate jobs for nationals.

''Industries invest in training workers and once they gained enough experience they would have to go. The loyalty of workers can be expected only in long-term employment.'' Indian businessmen said there will be conflict of opinion among the GCC as countries like Qatar, Kuwait and UAE did not have enough local manpower to meet the economic growth whereas Bahrain, Saudi Arabia and Oman faced unemployment but their manpower were not trained enough.


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