By FARISHTA SAEED
WHEN Bahrain's voters went to the polls three years ago, they expected their future MPs to voice their concerns at the highest level.
But some Bahrainis feel that their elected representatives have let them down and hope that next year's polls will bring major changes.
Jawad Business Group chairman Faisal Jawad feels that the fledgling democracy has a long way to go before it meets the standard set by Lebanon.
Inexperience and inappropriate priorities are distracting parliamentarians from the key issues facing Bahrain, he remarked.
A key problem is that MPs here and in other GCC states don't really understand their roles, says Mr Jawad.
"I believe that the idea never sank in the heads of many MPs, be they in Bahrain, the GCC or even Egypt," he said.
"Proper education is a very important element.
"This is why we see our MPs in disarray over little things and unable to control themselves when it comes to listening to each other.
"Education will teach a person to listen, think and then react, not think about what to say while the others are talking. No brain can think and listen at the same time."
The MPs found getting into parliament all too easy and voters did not demand that they had the appropriate qualifications or qualities to carry out the role, he says.
"Our MPs may be forgiven in that they had an easy access to Parliament during the elections," continued Mr Jawad.
"I say this because only just over half the population voted. This allowed individuals who knew nothing of democratic process and with no significant education into the doors of Parliament."
The result is that Bahrain is paying a high financial price for democracy, with very little to show for it, he said.
"Personally, I don't think very much of our MPs," said Mr Jawad.
"Bahrain is worse off now. The country is supporting two chambers, each with 40 members and 40 salaries, BMWs and other privileges and they have not benefited Bahrain at all."
MPs need to get their priorities straight.
"We now have more holidays, which is not good for business and veiled women driving," he said.
"We will soon have religious police’ questioning citizens. All this is thanks to our MPs.
"Every time someone is questioned by the police and security, MPs make a fuss.
"Our roads are not safe anymore because the police are probably scared that some cousin of an MP might be in that car!
"They are in fact a menace to society. If they cannot get what they want inside the Parliament or from the government, they go to the King. This is not good for the parliament and not good for the government."
The wages paid to MPs could be better spent and raising everyone's standard of living should be at the top of their agenda, says Mr Jawad.
This means paying more attention to the infrastructure and facilities available for all the public to enjoy, from street lighting and roads to parks.
"Our MPs have not shown us so far that they are worthy of the salary they receive," he remarked.
"Anyone who is good for the public must not take money from the public.
"The money MPs receive could have gone to public use.
"They may have stopped the poor from paying certain taxes and have asked for money to be given to the poor during Eid, but I think that is all the MPs have done so far.
"But what makes the poor better than the average citizen?
"As citizens in one country, we must enjoy the same standards."
Mr Jawad suggested that in future representation should be made more proportionate.
Constituencies are currently based on area, rather than population density.
"We have a situation whereby we have one MP representing 500 citizens and another MP representing 20,000 citizens," he observed.
"Something is wrong here, as these two MPs have equal voting rights inside parliament."
Mr Jawad admits that he didn't vote in the first election, but he will certainly be casting his ballot in the next one.
"I was not very happy about who represented my constituency and about the allocation and divisions of the constituencies," he said.
"I was wrong. So I will definitely vote next time.
"Bahrain is at a crossroads today and MPs and citizens must have one thing in mind and that is to put our country's achievements to work, convince the government to put the right minister in the right ministry and be accountable to the people of Bahrain."
Gulf Saatchi & Saatchi chairman and managing director Khamis Al Muqla feels that the MPs have been a disappointment for voters.
"Most MPs are not fulfilling their election manifesto promises," he said.
"They are good for the public provided they represent their interests and protect their legitimate rights.
"They should really avoid wasting time on trivial issues and concentrate on core areas of unemployment, housing, education, healthcare and issues of importance to the general public.
"When it comes to our economy, the MPs should contribute towards revitalising the economic sector by creating an environment that would encourage both local and foreign investment."
Housewife and mother-of-three boys Mahrokh Shafiee believes that Bahrain's MPs have done nothing for the public.
"I have to say that there are some good MPs, but most of them are not qualified," she said.
"An MP has to have a solid background in many things related to the country's needs and most importantly the citizens' needs.
"They have to understand that they are expected to fight for the citizens' rights and improve the country's economy, to help it stand on its feet.
"This is what we need.
"Once the economy is improved, the citizens will have more job opportunities, a better standard of living and better wages."
Mrs Shafiee had high hopes when she went to the polls, but those hopes have been dashed. She even has doubts about taking part in next year's election.
"When I elected my MP, I thought he was the right person to fight for my rights because he had a big programme that listed most of our needs," she said.
"But now, when I watch their meetings, I get so disappointed that I feel sorry for wasting my time voting.
'What do they do in their meetings? They fight with each other and tease each other like children.
"They start with one subject, fight with each other and stop in the middle of nowhere.
"A very simple issue of a bonus for the people has taken so long that the citizens don't believe they will get it unless a miracle happens.
"The only thing they came out with is allowing the ladies to drive with their faces covered. I won't waste my time and vote for anyone in the next election, unless I see a well-qualified candidate amongst them."
Fellow housewife Sameera Ali said Bahrain's MPs were a disgrace.
"Honestly speaking I am not interested in what the MPs are doing or what they will be doing," she declared.
"I think they have deceived and misled the people. They have fooled everyone."
Ms Ali's main complaint is that MPs seem unable to address the real issues concerning their constituents.
"People here in Bahrain need serious topics to be discussed - topics about the daily problems that the majority of us are facing," she said.
"We should not give the MPs a second chance. They have failed to fulfil the needs of the people."
Maskati Group deputy chairman and Shura Council member Khalid Al Maskati said MPs were delaying proposals forwarded by the council.
"The council has forwarded more than 50 proposals to the parliament which have not been discussed yet by the members," he said.
"These delays have a bad effect on the interests of the public."
The MPs may even have threatened the future of Bahrain's economy, said Mr Al Maskati.
"They are discouraging local as well as international investors," he remarked.
"If we want to solve the unemployment problem the first thing we need to have is more business opportunities.
"The MPs' short-sightedness must be changed. They should think of the years to come and grab every useful and profitable investment opportunity which will help improve the living standards of the citizens, as well as the country's economy."
Executive secretary Mona Abdulla said parliamentary candidates should have been vetted more carefully before being allowed to stand.
"That is the government's mistake for not using the right criteria for such an important post," she said.
"In my opinion, the MPs have not done anything remarkable yet and because they don't have the power to pass their recommendations through, they unfortunately have not been able to benefit the poor and the needy."
They should use the influence they have to address key issues, said Ms Abdulla.
"The MPs should focus on fighting corruption, finding solutions for unemployment, better education, equality among citizens and stopping religious discrimination," she noted.
Hi-Tech Computers business development director Saeed Bader said the MPs' main problem was a lack of experience.
"They can't make proper decisions when it comes to the country's economy or political issues because they are not very qualified and lack experience," he said.
"So far they haven't done anything tangible and God knows how long it will take them to take one fruitful decision."
Mr Bader is very keen to keep up with their weekly sessions, but finds it frustrating.
"I watch the TV and read the newspapers, but unfortunately most of the topics they have highlighted are of no interest to the poor and needy - even the bonus issue didn't see the light yet," he said.