Some want to get rid of Bahrain’s expatriates. Fine, go ahead.
But who will iron our clothes, clean the streets, lift bricks, cook and take care of our babies?
It’s not enough to be able to honk like crazy at the shopkeeper so he will bring me a piece of candy.
I fear the recent intermittent news reports about replacing expats with a Bahraini workforce may be rushed.
It will happen ultimately, but there needs to be enough competent Bahrainis to replace those expats who are terminated.
There is no sense creating jobs for fresh graduates at the expense of experienced expatriates.
Take healthcare as an example: Do you really think a resident doctor can take on the burden of an experienced senior?
There is a danger of rushing into a situation that could have uneasy consequences for the economy.
One argument is that expats will still be employed in unskilled and semi-skilled sectors.
But of course, someone has to do the dirty work.
However, the response to that is when anti-expat news occupies a regular slot in the media, it sends a clear message to both skilled and unskilled expats alike.
As a result we could see the flight of brains along with brawn.
It also encourages expatriates to withhold spending and, in a worse case scenario, could lead to social tensions between locals and expats.
I remind you of what happened in another GCC country that cracked down on expats.
The Arabic media was abuzz with stories about locals going to work in creased thobes because “iron man” had met his “endgame”.
In another Gulf state, we see stories about residential buildings falling empty because of policies that have driven out expats and ramped up living costs.
Bahrain has worked very hard to develop an expat-friendly image, but that is at risk of being undone.
I for one would love to see Bahrainis employed in every sphere.
It’s our country and, therefore, our undeniable right to be given priority.
That’s a universal rule every government follows.
But we need to understand whether we are ready to make that shift just yet.
Maybe before giving expats the boot it would be wise to put the Bahraini workforce through rigorous training, under the stewardship of experienced expats.
This on-the-job training would allow them to experience both the nature of the job, as well as the pressure and responsibility that comes with it.
Those supervising such training need to be ruthless in their evaluation.
After all, we will be placing our future in the hands of these new recruits.
But what are the chances of seeing a Bahraini do your laundry, clean the streets or deliver that piece of candy to the rowdy driver outside the shop?
At least in the last instance, the atmosphere will certainly be different – and the driver more respectful.
The writer is a Bahraini journalist and deputy editor of Gulf Construction magazine – firstname.lastname@example.org