Many of the country’s residents, including expatriates and locals, have called for the continuation of neighbourhood groceries because they offer them “necessary and timely” services.
Recently, the Ministry of Business and Trade (MBT) had announced a plan to close down the small groceries in the country, estimated to be around 7,100, and hence renewed their licences only until September 15. The licences used to be renewed annually.
However, the Central Municipal Council (CMC) has passed recommendations at its current session, calling for the continuation of these outlets saying that these shops are vital for both locals and expatriates and they offer much needed services.
“It is not logical that one drives all the way to the nearest mall to get some bread or milk while it can be bought in the neighbourhood,” CMC vice-chairman once said, summing up the easily accessible services of such outlets.
CMC member Hamad Saleh al-Houl told local Arabic daily Arrayah that the decision of the MBT in this regard had to be reviewed because of its multiple negative consequences on the community.
“People get used to deal with such groceries to get their needs. Moreover such shops benefit a significant segment of the middle class of locals, including the elderly, widows and divorcees. They depend entirely on the rents of these shops or operating them through somebody,” he said.
He also pointed out that for simple needs, it was not acceptable to drive all the way to the nearest shopping centre and then look for parking, while one can pick them from a grocery nearby .
He indicated that the same decision was on the table in 2009 and officials found out that implementation was practically impossible so they withdrew it. “Further, the available alternative is not feasible because of the shortage in commercial venues and high rental rates of commercial outlets.”
Mohamed al-Shafi, CMC member, also stressed the advantages of small groceries and demanded that the decision to close them down should be reviewed. He said that these shops had been granted permits to operate for more than 15 years and they had been doing great services to the local communities.
Some operators of the groceries said they had never caused any nuisance to the residents in their respective neighbourhoods. On the contrary they saw themselves as doing them a great though simple service.
“I am not only easily accessible but I am just a call away to deliver the needs of the neighbouring inhabitants, who are used to my timely services with no extra charges and some times with delayed payment,” said an Asian grocer.
He expected that the possible implementation of such a decision could end his business.
“Anyway, the licence is usually renewed every year, and I am sure that my sponsor would sort it out somehow,” he said expressing his confidence that his business would continue to operate as usual.
Meanwhile, businessman Abudlaziz al-Emadi, former vice-chairman of Qatar Chamber, defended the MBT plan, saying that it was time to upgrade the beautiful and civilised look of the country. He explained that such groceries used to serve labourers in the first place, and they had been moved away from family residential areas. Consequently, the existence of such shops was no longer justified. Meanwhile, he said that the MBT move to allocate shops in commercial complexes for groceries outside residential areas should go along with that decision, taking into consideration that the rental rates would be moderate.
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