NDAS chief says ‘political’ naturalisation could be behind demographic imbalance Sandeep Singh Grewal Staff Reporter

Is the increasing population a result of “political” naturalisation or excess foreign workforce? The question has been doing the rounds since the Minister of Cabinet Affairs and Central Informatics Organisation chief, Shaikh Ahmed bin Attiyatallah Al Khalifa, told the Chamber of Deputies that the population had hit the one-million mark. However, reports from various agencies have put the population at 750,000. Indian embassy officials told the Tribune yesterday that Indians constituted more than 275,000 of the population and according to the figures released by the government, there are about 76,000 Bangladeshis. Sources from other embassies said an estimated 30,000 Filipinos and 12,000 Sri Lankans were working in Bahrain. This takes the total number of workforce from Asian countries to 393,000. If one adds those from the West, the number will be much higher, the sources said. To a question by Al Wefaq Deputy Shaikh Ali Salman during the Chamber session last week, the minister had said the total population was 1,046,814. Shaikh Ali asked the minister whether the demographic explosion was a result of “excessive” naturalisation. “These are ominous signs which point to an unnatural population growth. It adds to the burden on the service ministries which are coping with the increasing demand because of the population explosion,” National Democratic Action Society (NDAS) president Ibrahim Sharif told the Tribune after the session. According to Sharif, the Ministry of Education has to accommodate 30,000 new students in its schools while the Ministry of Health would face challenges in providing public services. Quoting 2001 census, Sharif said there were 405,000 Bahrainis. “The figures provided by the minister show the number of Bahrainis increased to 529,000 by September last. The normal annual population growth has been less than 2.5 per cent so far which means there should be about 470,000 Bahrainis by now. Is political naturalisation behind the increase in the number to 529,000?” Sharif asked. He feared that Bahrainis would reduce to minority by the year-end. “The number of foreign workers has doubled and I blame it on the development projects and the construction boom. If the trend continues, then 45 per cent of the population will be Bahrainis, including naturalised citizens by the year-end. The problem is the authorities have not set any annual ceiling on the number of foreign workers arriving in Bahrain. I am afraid we will be in minority because of the shoddy planning by the authorities,” Sharif said. According to figures from the General Organisation for Social Insurance, the number of workers in private sector was 313,039 in 2006. They included 65,614 Bahrainis (21 per cent) and 247,425 expatriates. Similarly, 34,771 Bahrainis (90 per cent) were working in the public sector in 2006, taking up as many as 38,823 jobs. Sharif lashed out at the authorities for not being transparent about the population policy. “It is not a state secret the authorities should keep. Bahrain is a small country and the decision-makers have all data.” Al Wefaq Deputy Shaikh Hassan Sultan claimed that about 30,000 had dual citizenship and called on the government to revoke their Bahraini citizenship.

Article from: Bahrain Tribune Newspaper- www.BahrainTribune.com