Sameer Nass Chairman Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Early 2018: Recorded during Ramadan. Talking makes one very thirsty, but Sameer was fully fasting at the time, so appreciation goes out! So here it is; Sameer Nass Chairman Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The Bahrain Chamber of commerce, runs a little different to your normal city Chambers around the world. Of course, it is an ‘elected body’ and not to be confused with but under the umbrella of the Bahrain Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism as such. Anyone with a business is automatically a member and a fee is paid.

2018 saw elections and some major changes with a popular choice of Sameer Nass taking the helm. Six month in, as of this posting and there definitely are more positive vibes, if not less in number emanating from the new Chamber, rather than constant publicity within the realm of the previous board who seemed to be infighting more than getting anything worthy done. The Web site revamped and a a definite move towards public engagement is another very obvious change.

Sameer Nass is a very successful business man who has come up through the ranks in the construction industry, following on from his father. There isn’t much holding back with him, he pretty much says it like it is and blurts his ambitions in true form. He is convinced he can achieve his aims and well he might.

Some stark maneuvering was evident at the beginning of the new board’s reign with a few position changes taking the community by surprise as the announcements were so public. Something that doesn’t normally happen in Bahrain. Rather than outright public sackings or removal, the more polite, accolades for past work are made and the person moved sideways. This style is more normal on a small Island where more than half the population is related. Not with the more Trump-esq Sameer though… so far; ‘You’re fired’ seems to ring a bell (smile).

It is noticeable though, very-very slowly but surely, Bahrain is a little more commercially competitive now that the official population is registered at well over a million.  It is not all the same five or six big families calling the shots, although they do still hold great respect. Even foreigners can come in and set up business relatively easy and without too much red tape. A lot have! At the nepotistic base though related or not, the relationships become third or forth distant generations now, but still pride in the family name etc. keeps names out of the media and whispers are the headlines when something unsavoury is afoot or amiss.  On the other hand ‘nothing’ can really be covered up, because despite the population swelling beyond comfort, we still all talk to each other and the traditions of gatherings and meeting very much in vogue and finding a horses head in your bed over some bad business deal or mafia corruption with an organised hit is just not part of the culture and so far from reality on this Island.  So the Chamber of Commerce is, as Sameer says a very good leveler for business people in the country. Very approachable indeed.

However, things will change as it would seem that this official population figure is somewhat conservative if one judges the number of people around and the huge traffic jams every day on every artery of the country.  The Chamber of Commerce cannot change that with a stroke of a pen, but they can lobby with respect to access and time lost in these traffic jams and they will be doing a lot of this one suspects during the next few years under Sameer. That is just a small part, but it is an example of another side of the Chamber as mentioned in the video.

Business regulations, facilities, accessibility, are the norm, but we could see a few more avenues approached too.

One issue was raised by comment from a viewer; although not directly anything to do with the Chamber of Commerce at present, but maybe it should be!  As a strong body, a greater Chamber role combating or addressing current legal loopholes, whereby BCCI targets wannabe property sharks, many who have hurt, even financially destroyed a lot of people with their failed off plan buying and incomplete projects, thus sitting on the heads of the body now established to combat this despicable practice. The people involved have walked clean away, mainly because of the patriarchal, reputation culture which allows it, yet they are businessmen and members of the Chamber.  As with bankruptcy in most developed countries, one cannot just go out and set up another business without first settling debts.  An extract from British Company Law for example:

Bankruptcy and Owning a Business

“First things first, if you declare yourself bankrupt, you cannot be a company director of your own company or any others while the bankruptcy is undischarged. You are legally prohibited from managing, forming or promoting a limited company without first obtaining permission from a court”. 

This could even be law in Bahrain, but the Catch 22 on a small island would be that ‘Nobody declared Bankruptcy’, they just walk away from the debt and still run many other businesses.

See what we mean?  Everyone knows what we are talking about, but nobody mentions names. One gets the impression that Sameer Nass is not afraid to.