CONTINUE TAMKEEN FUNDING, SME owners worried about their cut

Owners of Small and Medium Establishments (SMEs) feel that new avenues to ensure continued funding for Tamkeen should be put in place for SMEs to thrive in the Kingdom.
Tamkeen funds are fees from the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA). Eighty per cent of visa fees and the monthly expatriate BD10 fee were earlier being divert- ed to Tamkeen. These were used to help establish new SMEs, provide assistance to existing ones and also train Bahrainis for the market.
A recent decision, how- ever, has cut off nearly 40 per cent of the funding from LMRA. The decision made just a few days ago states that Tamkeen will now only receive 50pc of the revenue. The remain- ing will be forwarded to government coffers.
Tamkeen told DT it would have to immediately review its programmes and budgets.
“Tamkeen’s strategy and operational plan will be reviewed to meet the labour market needs with- in the available budget,” a spokesman said.
The reduction in funding for Tamkeen could adversely affect SMEs that contribute 90pc of the private sector, Founder and Managing Director of Vanguard Hazem Janahi said.
He said Tamkeen had greatly contributed to the growth and sustenance of SMEs in the Kingdom.
"The government needs to find other ways to ensure that Tamkeen is funded like it was. The organisation should be supported and boosted to support SMEs," he said. "I feel the government should give an assurance to SME owners that it would support them."
Farhat Tours Sales Manager Abdul Aziz Al Hassani said he hoped the reduction in fees would not affect Tamkeen’s support to businessmen.
“We have seen recently how it has helped business- men through the economic crisis and also during the post unrest period, “ he said.
Mr Al Hassani also wished that the money diverted to the government would be used to expand Kingdom infra- structure to boost tourism and business.
Several other business- men, on condition of anonymity, said they hoped the government would use the funds for the expansion of Bahrain and its facilities.
“It would make it attractive to investors and directly increase job opportunities for Bahrainis,” they echoed.

Appeared in Bahrain's Daily Tribune on 22 September 2011
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