Returning from holiday to face reality is always a grim business. Couple that with New Year family and financial goals and resolutions and many people find that they have to take certain difficult decisions.
Globally, people are tightening their belts after a tough financial 2018 and Bahrain is no different. Even with the best of intentions, many companies are slowing down and this hits the highest-paid as well as the lower wage-earners. The difference is that the higher paid strata have access to a buffer of savings for security.
For many, the time has come to review their family status. At least four to six people I know in the lower income category have decided to choose the bachelor path once again and send back their families. It’s a heart-wrenching decision because these children will grow up in single parent families – far away from one parent and spouses will go through testing times in their relationship because no matter what romantics say, distance certainly does not make the heart grow fonder.
There is a curious dichotomy here – admissions to the expat schools are still overwhelming.
The Indian School registered over 1,500 new kindergarten admission requests and actually closed registrations ahead of time. It shows that families still prefer to brave it out in Bahrain where security is guaranteed and families can be raised in harmony.
I find it particularly thoughtless that the better-off amongst us toss out suggestions for people to “stop whining because a five per cent VAT charge is nowhere near the nearly 40pc taxes in other countries”.
For a growing family with limited income, the overall rise in the cost of living in Bahrain is inescapable. Adding to their woes is the VAT on utilities too – and the fact that utilities bills will rise in the months ahead. Just like the government has waived VAT on 94 essential foods, it should consider removing VAT charges on utilities too.
If you think this situation is the worst, think again.
Increasingly, unscrupulous business owners are cheating employees by sending them on leave and cancelling their work and residence permits when they are away. This means that employees returning to join work are shocked at the airport to find themselves stranded without permission to re-enter Bahrain. Their settlements and back wages (in most cases, there are salaries outstanding) go into a black hole. Even worse, their personal lives are affected because they have not had the time to sell their car and pack up personal effects or say goodbye to friends and family here.
Bahrain has time and again set humanitarian goals very high through acknowledging violations and instituting measures to rectify them. The domestic workers’ contract, flexible work permit and crackdown on trafficking are all moves that gave back a measure of dignity and hope to the vulnerable. The time has come to grasp this particular nettle and create a solution to the problem of workers being dismissed when away.
Perhaps the government should make it mandatory for the employee to sign his dismissal form and be present in Bahrain when he is pink-slipped.
Further, the employee should be asked to sign a form that all his settlements have been paid by the company. This will check the unfair practice of vacation dismissals.
When times are tough, the tough get ... compassionate.