GCC chambers of commerce face challenges

Haider Abdulreda Al Lawati haiderdawood@hotmail.com

The Chambers of Commerce and Industry play a major role in strengthening trade and economic relations with fellow institutions. They represent gateways to diplomatic relations between countries too. In the past three decades following the establishment of the WTO, these relations have boosted the volume of international trade and moved a lot of international investments, raw materials, and manpower around the world.

Chambers plays an active part in facilitating the role of local and global companies in the world through international exhibitions, besides stimulating foreign investments and creating global partnerships, and attracting the means, technology, and knowledge of new industries.

During the past seven decades, the Gulf States witnessed the establishment of these chambers, which are considered official representative institutions of the private sector of a particular country. However, today they need more reforms in their regulations and laws according to Abdul Rahim Naqi, the former Secretary-General of the Federation of the GCC Chambers. This is also the aspiration of many merchants and members in the area. They believe that the relations between the chambers and the ministries of commerce and industry must be complementary and not competitive, as is sometimes the case in the region. Relations must be forged in the ultimate interest of the national economies of the Gulf countries and toward their social responsibility.

In the five decades, the GCC chambers participated in establishing a number of joint stock companies, banks, factories and large projects in the area.  Membership is compulsory for commercial organizations in their respective chambers. This has helped the chambers generate significant financial savings, whether from membership fees or other fees, while its role is advisory in issuing legislations and laws that concern merchants and owners of institutions and companies.

Today, these chambers face many challenges including their inability to represent all members in the commercial and economic sector because of their large memberships distributed across various disciplines and specialties – a challenge that surfaces particularly during the time of elections.

The other challenge lies in the job instability of workers in the Gulf chambers when changing the presidency and members of their boards of directors, while another challenge relates to representation of small institutions. This leads to the occurrence of conflicts between members of the boards of directors and the elected members – which is a source of concern among the private sector owners in the Gulf. Some traders see that there is an absence in the appropriate representation in the membership of boards of directors and committees, as well as in regional and international meetings and in trade delegations traveling abroad.

Chambers need to activate their role during the next stage so that they can present their members on the government, private and civil society work. It is also necessary to involve small enterprises and even to finance them to play their desired role in the future. GCC chambers can build the required strategies, enhance the programs of the private sector and small institutions, and re-examine the frameworks legislative to include all sectors, professions, and services provided by institutions, so that they have their voice heard, whether internally or overseas.