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New York City, what a nice city. Have you ever been there, walking, shopping, restaurants, and all? Just an amazing city, isn’t it? What about London, have you ever been there too? Or Paris, or any other great Western city, have you been there and enjoyed all the great stuff it has? Sigh… well let’s come back to Bahrain; can we turn our lovely Island into a great Western city? Unfortunately not, and here’s why.
Despite all the solvable issues we can work together on, the one major difference between the West and us is something that it is as silly as it sounds. Car Parks. Wherever you go around Bahrain you notice that our driving culture is a sad reality that reflects our sad inner discipline. Not referring to the majority, there are a large number of individuals in Bahrain who need to be properly monitored and legally enforced to abide by the written and forgotten rules and regulations. Whether it is driving fast in emergency lanes, or parking on sidewalks, there is much money we can make, or alternatively loose.
But what does this have to do with becoming like those great Western cities; don’t they also have individuals who would break the law if it were not properly enforced? Yes, but there is something you need to be paying careful attention to.
Back in 2009, Bahrain’s Cabinet approved a set of regulations concerning constructions in a side attempt to solve the parking issues that this country has been facing for some time. Specifically, Decision number (28) for the year 2009, and here’s a small quote from what it says (translated): “Restaurants have to provide 4 parking spaces for every 100 square meter.” This killer statement does not refer to public car parks of course and of course the list also mentions apartments, hospitals, schools, universities, theaters, etc.
While I totally understand the intentions behind trying to solve the car parking issues we are facing here in Bahrain, reality states that this decision was a massive failure. We are trying to be as attractive as possible and as proponent as possible to support economic growth and business startups in our nation, and instead of creating opportunities, we have instead created more blocks for local and foreign investments. Now, we need to put few more zeros on the right to bring up the cost of establishing or expanding businesses. This is also the cost of having legal consultants and not investment consultants.
It is ok to make mistakes, but I utterly do not understand the boxed mentality of making it the responsibility of business owners to provide car parks for their clients. I’ve been to those cities mentioned above and it was always my own responsibility to find a car park. For added value, the restaurants in many cases, or any other type of business would have to be as creative as possible to attract customers to their shops. Some would provide valet services, and others would pay the parking fees for their customers if they had parked in a private parking lot. The business owners would have to select and risk car parks themselves. In Bahrain, we would never be able to do this.
Clearly, the missing link here is proper traffic enforcement. When I speak to officials about this topic, the response I get is straightforward; there is not enough manpower to issue traffic violations. All those years, why not hire and train them, why not hire 1000 of them? The math is simple, if a police officer is paid BD500 a month, he needs to issue less than 4 traffic violations a day to cover his salary! (Assuming each traffic violation is BD5) Any single violation above 4 a day is direct revenue to the government.
The opportunities do not stop here. The added revenue to the government would greatly organize traffic and always make it a fair play for all drivers, despite being cultured or not, to follow the rules and regulations with more attention. The private sector can easily benefit as well, through profiting from car park businesses, or transportations, or any other business opportunities directly or indirectly. Moreover, think about all the businesses that can finally open at their risk if this decision was scrapped.
The more businesses we can open, the more traffic violations we can cite, the more people will rely on public or private transportations, the more we carpool, the safer our roads become, the wealthier collectively we end up. Am I missing something here? Please let me know.