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DOHA: The Central Municipal Council (CMC) has urged the Ministry of Business and Trade to review its decision of not renewing commercial licences of neighbourhood stores (groceries operating in residential areas).
The ministry, it is learnt, is not renewing the licences of neighbourhood stores which are being asked for several years to shift to commercial areas.
The trade ministry is renewing commercial licences of only eight businesses operating in residential localities, which include schools and educational centres like coaching classes, beauty salons, flower and gift shops, nurseries, photo studios, medical centres and pathological laboratories.
The ministerial decision means that all other businesses operating in residential areas such as the neighbourhood stores, laundries, barber shops, engineering, audit and legal consultancy offices and others must shift to commercial locations. The CMC, a public representative body, had told the trade ministry that the neighbourhood stores must be allowed to continue until alternative space is provided, as removing them from residential areas would put people to extreme inconvenience since these stores provide home delivery service and keep open at odd hours.
“Also, removing these facilities from residential localities would lead to a sudden and unprecedented rise in shop rents. Already, there is a severe shortage of shops in commercial areas,” CMC’s vice-chairman, Jassim Al Malki, told The Peninsula yesterday.
The government hasn’t so far specified per square metre rent of commercial space locality-wise, leaving scope for shop and property owners to exploit the demand and supply situation and shortages to their advantage, said Al Malki.
“We have urged the ministry to postpone its decision until the plans to shift the neighbourhood stores into service centres in each locality materialise,” he said. “It would take time.”
The CMC has in the mean time urged the government to identify places where the proposed service centres can be built, according to Al Malki. The plan is to build a huge service centre complex in every residential locality and allot shops to neighbourhood stores, laundries and barber shops on a priority basis since they are basic services needed by the people on a daily basis. The government, the CMC vice-chairman said, should learn a lesson from its earlier decision of shifting all auto garages to the Industrial Area. “Now, even for a minor repair to our car we have to rush to the Industrial Area in traffic jams and wait in long queues. We hope the trade ministry heeds our request,” said Al Malki.