Qatar’s baqalas granted one-year reprieve as government works out zoning plan

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Convenience stores dotted around Doha’s neighbourhoods are to have their licenses extended until next July at least, the Qatar News Agency reports, despite the government’s declared intention to forcefully relocate them. 

This is an unexpected u-turn, as media reports only last month suggested that the Ministry of Business and Trade was following through with its intention to not renew the licenses of more than 7,000 small local grocery stores, barber shops and other small businesses beyond Sept. 15, 2012. 

Commercial complexes

The ministry’s plan is to relocate these stores into a purpose built “commercial complex” in each residential area.

This zoning “masterplan” is still on the drawing board, however, so the Central Municipal Council has been pressing the ministry to extend the stores’ licenses in the interim, the Peninsula reports.

Small grocery stores (baqalas), tailors and other such retailers have been disappearing from Qatar’s streets in recent years.

The Emir granted licenses to the owners of these stores – among them Qatari widows, divorcees and many poor families – years ago. The move was designed to stimulate the economy by helping those on low incomes.

Many residents rely on small stores because they are open at convenient times, are within walking distance and also offer home delivery.

The ministry’s plans will still allow schools, educational centers, clinics, flower shops, chocolate stores and photography studios to continue operating in residential areas.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala

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