Bahrain has a thriving real estate sector with some truly stylish developments and a gradual rise in home ownership. The first quarter of 2023 has been quite busy according to estate agents, with the rental scene busy with moves to new homes.
I was one of those who moved house recently after a dozen happy years in my last home. Two things were immediately clear – that the average person needs less than half the things we surround ourselves with and absolutely nobody is interested in your vintage cushion covers which were all the rage – what, was it a decade ago? Or your state-of-the-art-twenty-years-ago video camera. Heck, they have more powerful video recording technology on their mobile phones.
With the second-hand market in doldrums, I have no choice but to make thrift shop runs and give generously to those who evinced even the slightest interest in things I had outgrown, presumably as props for a theatre production set in the nineties.
The other thing that surprised me was the hoops we had to jump through to get our electricity connection for the new home. Disconnecting the connection for the old home was a cakewalk but it took us copious submission of e-forms and a visit to the Zayed Town EWA customer service centre before we got our connection 48 hours later.
The EWA staff are a friendly lot but have a rather unbending approach to processing paperwork. I was told ruefully that the system had changed in February and resulted in an unexpected slowdown of time taken to handle new connection requests. And, given the extremities of Bahrain’s weather, we can’t wing a house move and expect to survive without power or water.
Bahrain actually has a very good e-governance system but many of us find there are certain last-mile gaps that need to be closed. For instance, the bill payment electronic kiosks at EWA do not accept card or digital payments – only hard cash. And, surprise, surprise, there are no ATMs in the premises. In short, an old-fashioned bureaucratic runaround is built into the system.
And ‘wasta’, that practice of tapping into a familiar name, even if it’s a friend of a friend twice-removed, doesn’t work at EWA either. A friend who was negotiating for staff quarters was practically brought to her knees and called every acquaintance in the EWA – she holds the record for having been ghosted by the maximum number of aforementioned ‘friends of a friend’.
Just like Bahrain has admirably streamlined its ‘business-friendly’ policies so that starting a venture is easy-peasy, the government should make navigating the minutiae of house moves seamless if the real estate sector is to ride the boom.
We are halfway there with clearly enunciated land-tenant and home-owner rights but need transparency and swift connections to make buying or scaling up to a new home attractive.
Look at the telecoms sector. You can get your Internet connection within 24 hours of moving to a new address – so why not your utilities too?