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Sat 10 Jan 2009 04:00 AM

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Bahrain govt buckles under pressure on open-truck ban

Bahrain's Interior Ministry has postponed a ban on transporting construction workers in the back of open trucks following immense pressure from the local business community.

Bahrain's Interior Ministry has postponed a ban on transporting construction workers in the back of open trucks following immense pressure from the local business community.

The ban was said to have begun implementation on January 1 but will now begin on May 1.

The delay comes after several meetings with the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI) who claim the new law will have disastrous consequences for an industry already suffering from financial strain.

"Companies will be forced to buy new trucks and buses when they can't afford it and this will impact many, many projects in Bahrain," said BCCI construction committee head, Samir Nass.

But supporters of the ban say they are disappointed the government would buckle to the pressure of companies who are putting profits ahead of people's safety.

Civil engineer and vice chairman of the Coordination Committee of India Association (CCIA) Ratna Kumar said the BCCI's concern over the cost of buying buses is just "hot air."

"They can afford to do it, actually the price of materials has come down drastically from what they were five months ago," he said.

"Steel prices, electrical cables, glass, aluminium - everything has come down. Steel that was US $2122 (BHD800) has now come down to $530.

"It's all humbug anyway because the National Transport organisation said they have enough buses available to cover the industry."

Kumar said he's hopeful the law will be seriously implemented on May 1 since it has already been postponed for nearly two years.

The ban was first introduced after a spate of road accidents in which workers were killed because open trucks they were being transported in overturned.

According to statistics from the General Traffic Directorate, two labourers were killed and 221 were injured in open truck accidents in 2006, while three died and 187 were injured in 2007.

Under the proposed ban, offending companies face a minimum fine of $265, while the owner or driver could be jailed for six months.

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