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Sat 1 Aug 2009 04:00 AM

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Bahrain says khallas kafala

Conrad Egbert shares why the economic situation in the region can only get better.

Last week I traveled to the South Indian state of Kerala for a conference on migrant labour, and on my return I got chatting with an Emirati gentleman, at one of the passport control booths, at the Dubai airport.

“Why did you go to Kerala?” he asked. “On business,” I said. “Ah to bring workers eh?” he said nodding his head with a smile.

India has become synonymous with the export of cheap and unskilled labour, especially Kerala. And this was the biggest point of contention at the conference, with several speakers drawing attention to the need to reverse migration.

This week will also see Bahrain become the first GCC country to bin its sponsorship system or kafala system, as it is locally known. This is being seen as a massive step forward in the Middle East’s labour market reforms, by governments the world over.

The United Nations’ International Labour Organisation also commended the move with its regional director Nada Al Nashef describing it as a “pioneering scheme in the Arab world.”

The economic crisis, which on one hand has forced the region to slow down, affecting projects and people’s lives across the Middle East, has also created an opportunity for countries in the region to sit back and reassess their current laws and regulations, and formulate new and improved ones.

Issues surrounding labour have constantly sullied the region’s international reputation, so the news coming out of Bahrain this week, is a shining example of what countries can accomplish when they put their minds to it.

Today, tomorrow seems brighter than yesterday, and with Bahrain leading the way on labour reforms, the economic situation in the region can only get better.

But also, just like all good things come to an end, this week will see our colleague and trusted CW ranger, Jamie Stewart, moving on. To nowhere in particular I might add; quite simply, he feels he’s gained as much as he could from the region and is now ready to move back home to the UK. He will be sorely missed and the Construction Week team wishes him all the best.

Conrad Egbert is the editor of Construction Week.

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