Browsing 'baqala' News

Omar Chatriwala / Doha News

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Owners and workers at thousands of neighborhood stores in Qatar will now be able to renew their licenses annually until at least 2019.

The fate of such conveniently located shops, known as baqalas, has been in question for more than four years.

Since 2012, Qatar’s business ministry has been pushing for the licenses of local barber shops, grocery stores and other small businesses in residential areas not to be renewed.

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It wanted to remove the shops – which operate on licenses gifted by the Emir years ago to Qatari widows, divorcees and nationals in low-income brackets – from residential areas because it believed that they violated zoning laws.

In response, the Central Municipal Council said it wanted the stores to be relocated into commercial complexes within residential areas.

The government agreed, and it has since announced a series of extensions to baqala licenses to allow the so-called Commercial Zones to be built.

Annual renewals

However, despite announcing plans in 2013 to open nine Commercial Zones around Doha, thousands of stores remain in their original locations.

A three-year stay of execution for the stores was granted by the government in September 2013.

It had been due to expire this month, but a new three-year extension has just been approved by Cabinet.

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This gives the owners and thousands of workers employed in these stores some security as they wait to see whether they will be moved to new locations in the coming years.

Neighborhood shops are popular among residents because they are open at convenient times, are within walking distance and also offer home delivery.

Thoughts?

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Advancing on plans to develop commercial zones in residential areas, the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (MMUP) has announced nine specific locations to try out the new concept.

In Doha, they are: Doha Jadeed St. and Al Nada Street, in Doha Jadeed; Al Wefaq Street in Old Ghanem; Raudat Al Hail (Nuaika east and west); Bin Khaldoon Street in Umm Ghiwailina; and Madinat Khalifa Street in Madinat Khalifa North.

And in neighboring Al Rayyan, the streets include Al Murra, Al Faroosia and Othman bin Affan in Al Azizia.

Moving baqalas

Qatar has been discussing installing commercial zones in local neighborhoods for more than a year, as a substitute for the 7,000+ corner shops that are currently sprinkled across the nation, which apparently flout zoning laws.

The licenses for such shops were supposed to expire in September 2012, but operators were given a last-minute extension through July 2014.

Then in September, the Cabinet decided to grant the shops a new, three-year extension, to give the government enough time to relocate neighborhood grocery stores, barber shops and other small businesses into purpose-built “commercial complexes.”

The MMUP has not given a timeline for establishing these new neighborhood commercial zones, but baqalas now have at least until 2016 to operate. The shops are popular with residents because they are open at convenient times, are within walking distance and also offer home delivery.

According to the Peninsula, the commercial zones could also house engineering, audit and legal consultants, who can’t afford to rent offices elsewhere. But if that happens, there could a knock-on effect in terms of housing rents, the newspaper states:

Analysts say that while the announcement to develop commercial hubs is good news for businesses, they would lead to large-scale demolition of lower-rent residential buildings.

A rising population is already causing shortage of affordable housing in the country so the latest development plans would worsen the shortages and push housing rents further up.

Thoughts?

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In a welcome move, neighborhood grocery stores, barber shops and other small businesses in residential areas around Qatar will now be permitted to extend their operating licenses for another three years, the Cabinet has decided.

This is the second extension that the 7,000+ baqalas, which employ some 10,000 people, have been granted by the government in the past year.

Last August, the fate of these shops seemed uncertain, after the Ministry of Business and Trade recommended that the licenses of neighborhood convenience stores not be renewed beyond Sept. 15, 2012.

But widespread support for the shops, including among Central Municipal Council members, prompted the government to announce in May an extension through July 2014.

The goal was to allow Qatar enough time to relocate these stores into purpose-built “commercial complexes” in each residential area.

Acknowledging that setting up these complexes will take time, the baqalas have now been granted a further extension to operate at least until the fall of 2016. QNA reports:

It is permissible to renew these licenses annually until the end of 2016 in view of the unavailability of alternative shops to practise their activities in the current period in addition to the high rental value of such shops outside those areas.

Neighborhood shops are popular because they are open at convenient times, are within walking distance and also offer home delivery.

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.

Such shops have been disappearing in recent years, in part due to construction and to a decline in business after the 2011 “bachelor” ban on low-income single men, who were moved out of the city and into the Industrial Area.

Thoughts?

Credit: Photo by Richard Messenger