A new effort to revoke the driving licenses of expats working in certain sectors has been launched by a municipal council. The Constitutional Court threw out a similar attempt in 2014, after ruling that it was discriminatory and therefore unconstitutional.
However, in its ruling it stated a driving ban was feasible if it targeted specific employment categories, rather than focusing on foreigners. As a result, the Muharraq Municipal Council yesterday approved a new proposal to ban expats in certain fields from driving and referred it to the Interior Ministry.
The issue was resurrected based on concerns about traffic congestion, with official figures released last month indicating there are now 650,000 vehicles on Bahrain’s roads–and more than half of them allegedly driven by expats. However, it was also revealed that each Bahraini eligible to drive owns an average of two cars.
In a country where public transport is slow and not widespread, and taxis are expensive, cars are a must-have for expats. Cars represent mobility and the ability to go from place to place. Without this ability to move around, the status of expats in Bahrain will be like the status of women in Saudi–at the mercy of friends/relatives and/or Uber in order to go from place to place.
Councilor Al Sinan also claimed that expats buy cheap, unsafe vehicles at BD100 that are “very old, rusty, and ugly and makes you want to vomit when you see it” and use this in order to ferry people around to augment their BD70 or BD80 salaries. Of course, if they have better salaries, maybe these expats can afford better cars.
Interestingly, a similar move to ban expats from getting driving licenses was also done in Kuwait earlier this year.