Road Fees for Expats – An Absurdity

Will Bahrain’s expatriate drivers be made to pay annual fees for using public roads ?.

A proposal to make them pay is being submitted by two MPs, to Bahrain’s Parliament, suggesting “imposing fees on expat vehicle owners and doubling the fees of their vehicles’ registrations, driving learning licences and driving licences.”

And this proposal, I think, is completely inane, and absolutely immature.

While explaining that the fees could be BD100 to be paid by each expat car owner in Bahrain once a year, these MPs are announcing that “this would surely be a great source of income to the State budget”.

They say: “These amounts would contribute in financing infrastructural and key projects in the country. It’s a better option instead of sinking in debts to implement such projects. It would lighten the financial burdens on the state budget,”

Strangely, these MPs seem to assume that by taxing the expatriate drivers, the government can effectively fund the building and maintenance of roads.

When they say, “GCC nationals could be excluded from paying these fees,” they are neglecting to analyse the repercussions the statement would have.

They do not seem to understand that any fees imposed on the use of roads, specifically on expatriates, is downright discriminatory; and that it could invite an international outcry.

If at all any road fees has to be imposed, then everyone using the road must be taxed equally.

Their convoluted logic shows an old-age mind-set which still believes that ‘expatriates’ harm the economy more than they benefit the economy.

Let us go over a few of the many reasons why, I think, this strange proposal is just not workable.

Firstly, any expatriate buying a car, on loan, here is already paying a tremendous amount of ‘interest’ to the banks here; which is, in a way, funding the salaries of banks’ employees, including many Bahraini citizens. The car-buying expatriate is a cause for profit to Bahrain’s automobile sellers.

Secondly, a majority of expatriates in Bahrain are actually too poor to afford any cars. In fact it is the rich locals who have more cars per family, than even the number of members in their families. And, I am sure, they use the roads more, on a per-car per-individual basis.

Thirdly, when an expatriate family lives here with his/her family, the family is buying food, clothing, transportation, communication, schooling, and accommodation from Bahrain’s companies and individuals. This is facilitating huge employment opportunities for Bahraini citizens.

Fourthly, when expatriates send money out of the country, the remittances must be accounted as payments for importing labour, just like it pays other products it imports.

Anyone can see that just the telecommunications companies like Batelco, Viva and Zain are earning millions from expatriates using their mobile-phone and internet services – for communicating with their loved ones in their respective countries.

Not to mention the hundreds of local jobs expatriates are creating for local citizens when expatriates eat at restaurants, shop in the malls, and even simply watch a movie at the cinema.

According to the website of LMRA (Labour Market Regulatory Authority) of Bahrain, “the number of employed Bahrainis has increased to 158,437 workers this year’s second quarter (ending June 2015) at an annual growth rate of 2.5% in comparison to 154,611 workers in the same quarter in 2014.

Taxing the expatriates alone by a road fees is not advisable because it is discriminatory and completely devoid of economic logic.