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Sun 10 Feb 2008 01:29 PM

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Crackdown urged on expatriate rip-off bid

‘Racist' dual pricing proposals have been met by outrage among retail professionals in Bahrain.

Bahraini retailers and human rights officials have hit out at plans to impose separate price scales for locals and expatriates in the country.

Recent moves by MPs to introduce subsidised rates on commodities to curb rising crime rates, attributed to inflation, have caused uproar.

The ministerial financial and economic affairs committee has put forward a blueprint which includes the introduction of broader subsidies on consumer products.

According to reports, MPs voted for an urgent meeting with HH Prime Minister of Bahrain Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman Al-Khalifa to thrash out the issue.

"Nowhere in the world are we witnessing such crimes against humanity in the retail sector, or a need for people to show identification which determines what they pay," commented CR Nambiar, general secretary, Indian Community Relief Fund.

"Money is not the question, this is racism and they should refrain from implementing that proposal. Most the expatriates have concurred that it will not be possible for retailers to ask everyone where they are from, which could lead to malpractice."

"Prices have already skyrocketed here in the past six months, and commodities such as rice, basic vegetables and dal have doubled, which low income workers earning BHD 60 (AED 600) a month and paying back loans in India, are dependent upon," said Marietta Dias, head of the action committee for the Migrant Workers Protection Society in Society.

Dias urged the Government to "do something about this as people are going to be taken for a ride." She stressed that, if it takes effect, Bahrainis could take advantage of their privileges by buying and re-selling products. "The embassies are up in arms about this issue, but perhaps it is too late."

Rajesh Dagli, sales manager for electronics retailer Kewalram & Sons Co. said the system would be met by hostile reactions among consumers in Manama.

"How can you discriminate against people like that? This is not a wise decision, as expatriates account for 25-30% of the population in most of the GCC countries."

Kartar Hasnani, retail manager of the supermarket chains Mega Mart & Babasons, responded angrily to the proposals, and said there has been public outcry in Manama over the idea.

"It is extraordinary to hear this approach has even been considered, as it is will be technologically impossible to implement. This move would also require us to label every SKU and program the computers with two prices.

"We would also have to verify every consumer's nationality, and that level of interrogation would be difficult for cashiers to handle."

Hasnani said that, if implemented, dual pricing will push consumer confidence down at its sharpest ever rate.

He called for Government intervention, and suggested it should open its own supermarket operating using the scheme.

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