2/24/2014

Impôts en Afrique: entretien avec Kieran Holmes

http://www.africaresearchinstitute.org/blog/impots-en-afrique-entretien-avec-kieran-holmes/

Kieran Holmes est Commissaire général de l’Office burundais des recettes (OBR), une autorité semi-autonome de perception d’impôts. Il est également coauteur d’un rapport, récemment publié par Africa Research Institute (ARI), exposant en détail les réformes de collecte d’impôts et d’administration qui ont étés entrepris dans un des plus pauvres pays d’Afrique (disponible ici en français ou en anglais). Dans cet entretien avec Jonathan Bhalla, Directeur de recherche d’ARI, Kieran examine comment l’OBR est devenu une institution modèle, bien qu’elle reste exposée à une incertitude financière malgré ses multiples succès.
1. Quelle était la situation en termes de collecte et administration de recettes au moment où la guerre civile a pris fin ?
Elle était assez mauvaise. En 2009, le gouvernement n’a récupéré que 301 millions BIF, (l’équivalent de 124 millions de dollars). La collecte de recettes était fragmentée entre deux administrations séparées. L’une étant le département d’impôts, et l’autre le département de douanes. Les deux appartenaient au Ministère des Finances, et les deux étaient réputées pour leur niveau de corruption. Il n’y avait pas de coordination ou de partage d’informations. De ce fait, très peu de revenu pouvaient être recouvert.
2. Qu’est-ce qui a conduit à cette nouvelle approche de créer un nouvel organe fiscal semi-autonome au Burundi ?
L’adhésion burundaise à la Communauté de l’Afrique de l’Est (EAC) a été décisive ici. Or, le gouvernement burundais savait qu’il devait harmoniser son administration d’impôts avec d’autres états-membres de l’EAC pour que le projet d’intégration et de marché commun deviennent une réalité. La création d’une autorité semi-autonome de perception (ASAP) était un moyen pour atteindre à ce but.
En outre, le gouvernement avait besoin de recueillir plus d’argent sur le plan interne. Ils savaient que les ASAP avaient connu de bons résultats en Afrique de l’Est, et qu’elles étaient capables de générer des revenus élevés. Surtout aux débuts de leur création.
“La première chose que nous avons fait c’était de changer l’intégralité du personnel”
3. Quelle est le facteur le plus important pour la collecte de revenus dans un pays comme le Burundi ?
C’est une question de retour aux bases. Quand nous avons créé l’Office burundais des recettes (OBR), la première chose que nous avons fait c’était de changer l’intégralité du personnel, et de les former suivant les meilleures pratiques internationales, notamment sur l’administration de la collecte d’impôts. Nous avons recruté 425 nouvelles personnes, sur les 9000 candidatures que nous avons reçu.
A l’OBR nous avons établi les meilleures normes possibles dès le début. Le personnel est recruté sur la base de contrats axés sur les résultats, et les employés peuvent être licenciés en cas de corruption ou de sous-performance. Dans l’administration précédente il était impossible de faire la distinction entre personnel malhonnête et personnel incompétent.
4. Les exemptions représentent environ 20 pourcent du revenu perçu par l’OBR. Quel est l’impact de cela ?
Il y a trois sortes d’exemptions. Premièrement, il y a les exemptions qui sont accordées sur la base du droit international, ou des accords de commerce bilatéraux entre le Burundi et d’autres pays. La deuxième sorte, ce sont les exemptions qui ont étés accordées sur la base de codes d’investissement, régi par l’Agence burundaise de promotion d’investissements. Enfin, il y a les exemptions qui sont inclus dans des contrats entre le gouvernement et des investisseurs privés.
Ce dernier type d’exemptions est la plus dangereuse, car il n’y a pas de raison d’être purement économique derrière ces exemptions discrétionnaires. L’affirmation que de telles mesures d’incitation accélèrent la création d’emploi est empiriquement infondée. Par ailleurs, rien ne démontre que les investissements étrangères, qui ont étés faites depuis 2010, ont été effectuées grâce à ces exemptions. Il y a un véritable danger que l’Etat donne quelque chose sans rien avoir en retour.
5. Pourquoi était-il important de changer le fonctionnement des douanes au Burundi ?
Une des fonctions de l’OBR c’est la facilitation du commerce. Approfondir l’intégration est une des priorités du gouvernement burundais, depuis que le pays est devenu membre à part entière de l’EAC. L’OBR poursuit activement cet objectif, cherchant à réduire le temps nécessaire pour faire passer des biens par les postes frontières et par le port de Bujumbura.
Un des défis les plus importants de l’OBR a été de combattre la corruption dans les points de passage. L’introduction des frais douaniers se fait en temps réel et par un certain nombre d’étapes, durant lesquelles le potentiel de corruption augmente. En plus, beaucoup de gens ne comprennent, tout simplement, pas pourquoi ils devraient payer des droits de douanes ou une TVA, et se plaignent virulemment des pots de vin au points de contrôle de police, mais aussi d’autres formes d’extorsion commis par les fonctionnaires et les agents.
Les douanes sont généralement une affaire compliquée, mais le sont d’autant plus depuis l’adhésion à l’EAC. Les biens en provenance de la région de l’EAC sont exemptés des droits douaniers, mais la TVA s’applique toujours. Les produits en provenance d’en dehors de l’EAC sont soumis à des droits de douanes, sauf s’il y a un arrangement spécial en place, par exemple une zone de libre-échange ou un accord de commerce bilatéral.
6. Qu’est-ce qui peut être fait pour renforcer l’intégration régionale en termes de collecte d’impôts ?
Nous avons besoin d’harmoniser les impôts. La base imposable ainsi que les taux de taxation de chaque pays devraient être plus ou moins les mêmes. Par exemple, le contexte fiscal au Burundi devrait être similaire à celui du Kenya. Ceci empêche « la course vers le bas » ; un phénomène où les pays se font la concurrence pour obtenir des investissements en réduisant constamment les taux d’imposition. En plus, il est utile d’avoir une administration d’impôts qui est la même pour tous les pays, et c’est ce que le Burundi a cherché à faire en créant l’OBR.
7. Quelles sont les difficultés associées avec l’harmonisation des impôts ?
Ce n’est pas facile, encore moins quand les négociations se déroulent entre cinq gouvernements nationaux. Le problème c’est qu’au sein de l’EAC les structures économiques des pays-membres peuvent être très différentes. A titre d’exemple, l’économie d’un pays peut être dépendante de l’extraction des ressources naturelles. Ces pays-là auront un intérêt fort de taxer leurs rendements du capital investi, à savoir les dividendes, les intérêts, les redevances (ou royalities), et les frais de gestion. Cependant, il se peut qu’un autre pays veuille se lancer dans le secteur minier, et cherchera à offrir des taux d’imposition s’approchant le plus du zéro possible.
8. De quelle façon l’OBR cherche-t-il à augmenter les revenus futurs ?
Dans les années à venir, le secteur minier serait une importante source de revenus. En octobre 2013 le Burundi a passé un nouvel code minier. A l’OBR nous croyons que ce secteur pourra générer beaucoup de revenus pour la caisse de l’Etat, mais nous essayons également d’améliorer la collecte d’impôts dans les secteurs informels. Par exemple, nous avons lancé une campagne cherchant à motiver tous les PME à s’enregistrer en tant que contribuables. Au Burundi certaines entreprises privées prétendent être plus petites qu’elles le sont dans le but d’échapper à certaines obligations d’impôts.
9. Existe-t-il un lien entre collecte et administration des impôts plus professionnalisée, et la transparence et responsabilité d’un gouvernement ? Si la taxation est plus transparente, peut-elle servir à titre d’exemple aux autres branches du gouvernement ?
Je suis convaincu que c’est le cas. Dans mon expérience, l’OBR a eu un impact visible – et positive – pour d’autres agences gouvernementales. Pour certaines personnes, l’OBR est considéré en tant qu’institution « model ». J’espère qu’il y aura un temps où tout le monde dira, « ok, je veux faire mieux ».
10. Pourquoi pensez-vous que le soutien aux autorités comme l’OBR devrait être une priorité pour les bailleurs de fonds dans les années à venir ?
Un soutien constant aux offices des recettes en Afrique a produit une augmentation considérable des revenus gouvernementaux. Burundi n’est qu’un exemple. Cependant, pour continuer à construire sur ces exploits, l’OBR a besoin d’une stabilité financière pour prendre ses propres décisions, comme ce qui a été défini dans son Plan stratégique 2013-2017. Ces objectifs ont été définis localement, en collaboration avec le gouvernement burundais, et ont été bien reçu par la communauté internationale.
Ma plus grande crainte, actuellement, est que l’OBR ne sera pas capable de se développer avec assez d’autonomie, pour poursuivre ces besoins et plans stratégiques à cause de l’instabilité financière qui entoure l’organisation. A ce moment même, la deuxième étape de soutien à l’OBR n’a pas été approuvée. La tranche actuelle de financement se termine en 2014. Cette incertitude est un vrai souci pour toute l’organisation.
Un soutien à long-terme apporté aux autorités de recettes représente une énorme plus-value pour les bailleurs de fonds, et l’OBR est l’exemple parfaite. Plus les gouvernements des pays en développement sont financièrement sécurisés, moins ils dépendraient des bailleurs de fonds pour financer ses services sociaux et son développement d’infrastructures. Assurément, ceci devrait être l’objectif de toute sorte d’aide internationale. N’est-ce pas ?

Pour aller plus loin, lisez l’intégralité du rapport, Pour l’Etat et le Citoyen : la réforme de l’administration fiscale au Burundi
écrit par Jonathan Bhalla, Directeur de recherche
traduit par Olivier Milland, Assistant de Communication et de recherche

Four die in eastern Saudi Arabia police raid

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26275436


Two police officers and two men they were trying to arrest have been killed in a gunfight in Saudi Arabia's restive Eastern Province, officials say.
The interior ministry said the officers came under fire while trying to detain "armed troublemakers" in al-Awamiya, and had "responded to the source".
It named the civilians who were killed as Ali al-Faraj and Hussein al-Faraj.
However, opposition activists said there had been no exchange of fire and that the two men had been unarmed.
The police officers had burst into the house of a man in search of his wanted brother who was not there, they added.
Ali, the house owner's 22-year-old son, was shot 11 times while running away, one activist told the Reuters news agency. Hussein, a 34-year-old local photographer, died "as he documented the raid", the activist said.
The local news website mirataljazeera.net said Hussein had documented anti-government demonstrations and the funerals of the more than 20 people who have been killed in Eastern Province since early 2011.
Protesters 'sentenced'
The oil-rich Eastern Province is home to a Shia majority that has long complained of marginalisation at the hands of the Sunni ruling family.
Protests erupted there when the pro-democracy uprising in neighbouring Bahrain, which has a Shia majority and a Sunni royal family, was crushed with the assistance of Saudi and other Gulf troops.
The Saudi authorities deny discriminating against Shia and blame Iran.
In 2012, they named 23 suspects - reportedly among them Ali al-Faraj's uncle - in connection with the disturbances in Eastern Province, accusing them of possessing illegal weapons and opening fire on the public and police. Several have since either been killed or captured.
Activists say that of the more than 950 people arrested since 2011 for involvement in the unrest, 217 are still being held.
On Wednesday, a court sentenced several people to up to 20 years in prison for joining a protest in Eastern Province and chanting anti-government slogans, according to the AFP news agency.

Bomb blasts, clashes in Bahrain village

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bomb-blasts-clashes-in-bahrain-village-1.1295200

Dubai: Two homemade bombs exploded overnight in a village west of Manama as Bahraini police clashed with rioters, police said on Monday while the opposition accused authorities of attacking mourners.
Predominantly Shiite villages frequently witness clashes between security forces and protesters demanding Bahrain’s government surrender its grip on all key cabinet posts in favour of an elected government.
The bombs exploded as “security forces were confronting acts of sabotage, blocking of roads and attacks with Molotov cocktails,” police said in an English-language statement published by the official BNA news agency.
There were no reports of casualties but an investigation is underway, it said.
But the main Shiite opposition bloc Al Wefaq said security forces attacked mourners in Saar.
They “used poisonous gases to attack ... a religious establishment” where mourners had gathered causing “injuries and suffocations” among residents.
Arab Spring-inspired protests in Bahrain began in mid-February 2011 and were met by a crackdown a month later. But mostly young protesters still take to the streets in villages surrounding Manama, often clashing with security forces.
The International Federation for Human Rights says at least 89 people have been killed since the uprising broke out three years ago.

2/20/2014

Bahrain man 'sentenced to death for killing policeman'

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26263627

A court in Bahrain is reported to have sentenced one man to death and six others to life in prison for the killing of a policeman a year ago.
Two others were jailed for five and six years for their role in his death.
Mohammed Atef was hit by a petrol bomb during a protest in the village of al-Sahla on the second anniversary of the 2011 pro-democracy uprising.
On the third anniversary on Friday, another policeman was fatally injured by an explosion at a protest in Dair.
And on Sunday, two people were jailed for 15 years after being found guilty of trying to kill police officers.
Lawyer Jassim Sarhan told the Associated Press that the man sentenced to death on Wednesday was a 29-year-old called Maher al-Khabaz, and that he and the other defendants planned to appeal.
Bahrain has been wracked by unrest since protesters began demanding more democracy and an end to what they perceive as discrimination against the majority Shia community by the Sunni royal family.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) says at least 89 people have been killed since the authorities launched a crackdown on the dissent in March 2011, though officials say the toll is lower.
A national dialogue process has reached an impasse, with the opposition claiming the ruling Khalifa family have no intention of making good on its promises of reform, and the government blaming the opposition.

2/15/2014

Bahrain policeman dies after protest anniversary bombing

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-middle-east-26204601

A policeman in Bahrain has died of wounds from a bomb blast during protests marking Friday's third anniversary of the country's uprising.
The interior ministry said he was one of two officers wounded in a "terror blast" in the village of Dair.
Another three policemen were injured by an explosion near the village of Dih.
Protesters were marking the 2011 unrest fuelled by demands for more rights and an end to discrimination against the majority Shia community.
On Friday demonstrators attempted to reach the site of a bloody crackdown on demonstrators almost three years ago.
Several demonstrators were reportedly wounded by security forces. The interior ministry said in a statement that 26 people were arrested on suspicion of "rioting and vandalism".
Police used tear gas to stop them from reaching the Pearl Roundabout, which was a focus of protests in 2011.
Since then, police and demonstrators have scuffled almost daily. Thousands of people have been arrested.
Associated Press quoted the Bahrain Youth Society for Human Rights as saying 38 protesters had been hurt in clashes since Thursday evening, with injuries caused by birdshot fire, tear gas and beatings.
Repeated clashes
The government and opposition have held two rounds of fruitless reconciliation talks, with a third expected soon.
The protesters are mostly from poorer, Shia areas in the villages outside the capital.
Protesters have repeatedly used burning tyres and other debris as a tactic to block police vehicles from entering Shia areas.
Sunni Muslims are a minority in the country but through the al-Khalifa dynasty have ruled over the Shia Muslim majority for more than 200 years.
The small island country is a key US ally in the Gulf and hosts the US Navy's 5th Fleet.
Bahrain is also closely allied with Saudi Arabia, which in 2011 sent troops into the country to help the government quell the uprising.

2/14/2014

UN blames DR Congo groups for 'Masisi massacre'

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-26190590


Rival ethnic militias in the Democratic Republic of Congo are believed to be responsible for mass killings reported in three villages in the east, a UN spokesman has told the BBC.
More than 70 civilians are alleged to have been summarily executed in late January and early February.
Col Felix Prospere Basse said tension between two Mai Mai groups in the mountainous Masisi area had resulted in a spate of revenge killings.
The UN is to visit the site on Friday.
On Thursday, a reconnaissance flight by Monusco, the UN mission in the country, discovered three villages burnt to the ground.
Most of the victims are reported to have been killed with machetes.
The UN estimates that more than 40 militias operate in eastern DR Congo, which is rich in minerals often exploited by the armed groups.
'Track them down'
"The villages are empty because the population has fled the area and we have observed three villages which have been burnt down," Col Basse told the BBC's Focus on Africa radio programme.
There had been clashes between the Mai Mai FDC, an ethnic Hunde militia, and an ethnic Hutu group called the Mai Mai Nyatura, he said.
 Many armed groups operate in Masisi territory - and some villages have become divided along ethnic lines
For decades, relations between the Hunde, Hutu and other communities have been soured by disputes, often over land, in the Masisi territory of North Kivu province.
The recent trouble is believed to have started with the killing of two Hunde people by Mai Mai Nyatura fighters, Col Basse said.
This prompted a series of retaliatory attacks in the area which is dozens of kilometres away from a UN base, he said.
"Tomorrow [Saturday] we are going there because we are determined... to take appropriate action against those who have committed this crime, track them down and bring them to justice," the colonel said.
About 94% of Monusco's 19,000-strong force, which includes its new attack force tasked with neutralising armed groups, is based in eastern DR Congo, he said.
"Most of the time we arrive on time to prevent killing, but… we cannot be everywhere, every time," the Monusco spokesman said.
"And sometimes the reports come very late because these atrocities might be taking place in very remote areas and it takes time to know to be informed and be there."
At the end of last year, a UN brigade helped defeat the largest group in the east, the M23, which had operated in Masisi.
The unrest in eastern DR Congo began when some of the ethnic Hutu militants accused of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda fled into DR Congo.
Rwanda has consistently denied repeated accusations from the UN that it backed the Tutsi M23 rebels, whose uprising in North Kivu forced about 800,000 people from their homes.

More on This Story

Human rights activists commend royal speech

http://bna.bh/portal/en/news/602699

Manama, Feb. 14 (BNA)-- His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa's speech marking the 13th anniversary of the National Action Charter (NAC) has been lauded by many human rights activists in Bahrain.

President of the National Institution for Human Rights Dr. Abdulaziz Abul extended congratulations to HM the King on the occasion, affirming that the charter has paved the way for an unprecedented political and social development.

"HM the King has laid the cornerstones for a graded, multi-phased and unlimited political system which is developing perpetually to cope with contemporary requirements while preserving Bahrain's identity and inherent traditions," he said, citing the many achievements yielded by NAC.

He also pointed out the fast-paced political march in Bahrain which, he said, has been able to accelerate its democratic process and bring about many achievements in just thirteen years since the launch of NAC while other democracies, like the UK's and the USA's, took longer time.

He commended the royal wisdom in handling issues, calling on all citizens to join hands so as to achieve forecast aspirations. He urged them to renounce violence and terrorism and focus on Bahrain's future and the national interest.

On her part, Head of the Shura Council Human Rights Committee Dr. Aisha Salim Al-Mubarak extended heartfelt congratulations to HM the King on NAC anniversary, commending the numerous achievements made at various levels.

She said development in Bahrain is an unabated process, as it was asserted by HM the King in his address. She praised the royal keenness to improve the living standard of all citizens and ensure all their needs are catered for.

Meanwhile, NIHR Secretary General Dr. Ahmed Farhan commended the royal speech, describing the NAC as the catalyst of Bahrain's fast-paced reform and development process and the guarantor of people's rights.

He urged citizens to respect the law and work on preserving hard-won achievements and building on them.

President of Bahrain Human Rights Group Faisal Fouladh said the royal speech marks the dawn of a new phase laden with further accomplishments so as to maintain Bahrain's leading status on the path of democracy, reform and development.

A O Q

BAHRAIN: 14 FEBRUARY 2014

http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-protesters-clash-with-police-on-protest-anniversary-1.1290914


  • Image Credit: AP
  • Bahraini anti-government protesters watch for riot police between clashes in the debris-filled main street of Musalla, Bahrain on February 13. Rubbish and oil smeared on the road are meant to deter police jeeps from entering the village, where shops were shuttered in observance of a general strike called by anti-government groups in the run-up to Friday' third anniversary of the protests in the kingdom.

    BAHRAIN: 14 FEBRUARY 2014

    Bahrain protesters mark anniversary, clash with police

    http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-protesters-mark-anniversary-clash-with-police-1.1290556

    Dubai: Pro-democracy demonstrators clashed with police in Bahrain on Thursday as they marked the third anniversary of an Arab Spring-inspired protest movement that was quelled with the help of GCC troops, witnesses said.
    It was the first of three days of protests called by the Shiite-led opposition to mark Friday’s anniversary as they seek to give new momentum to their campaign for a constitutional monarchy in the Gulf state.
    Clouds of tear gas billowed from the streets of several villages outside the capital Manama as security forces attempted to dismantle roadblocks of burning tyres, the witnesses said. The opposition has been demanding an elected government.
    The protesters defied a heavy security presence to set up makeshift roadblocks of felled trees and burning tyres in several villages, where persistent demonstrations have sparked repeated clashes with police
    The interior ministry said police “confronted groups of vandals and cleared blocked roads.”
    The main Shiite opposition party Al Wefaq, which has boycotted parliament since the unrest, posted images of protesters being tear-gassed and police in riot gear patrolling deserted streets.
    Al Wefaq said several areas observed a complete shutdown following its call for a strike on Thursday — the last day of the working week in Bahrain — ahead of a mass rally on Saturday.
    The underground February 14 youth coalition has called on its supporters to try on Friday to reach Pearl roundabout, where demonstrators camped out for a month before being violently dispersed by GCC troops.
    Gulf troops deployed in Bahrain on the eve of the March 2011 crackdown, manning key positions while its own security forces carried out the crackdown. The Pearl roundabout was later razed and the site remains heavily restricted.
    At least 89 people have been killed in the three years since the launch of the protests, according to the International Federation for Human Rights.
    Two rounds of national reconciliation talks have failed to make any headway on a settlement in the Gulf archipelago.
    Crown Prince Salman, who has made several overtures to the opposition, called last month for a third round of national talks.

    2/08/2014

    Blocking the Budget: Nigeria’s Opposition Flexes its Newfound Muscles

    http://www.afronline.org/?p=32462#more-32462

    Last month, with Nigeria’s 2014 budget under consideration in the Senate and House of Representatives, the growing opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) flexed its political muscles by declaring that it would “block all legislative proposals, including the 2014 Budget.”
    The APC urged its representatives to stand firm until the “rule of law” is restored in Rivers state − whose governor fell out with the president last year before defecting to the APC − and complained about the lack of consultation that went into the drafting of the budget and clarity in the figures.
    The ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) responded by crying foul and accusing the APC, somewhat hyperbolically, of a “devilish plot to undermine the nation’s security system…and cripple the economy.”
    The blocking of the budget − an unprecedented occurrence in Nigeria where the ruling party has been heavily dominant since the return to electoral rule in 1999 − is the APC’s most confrontational legislative move to date and possibly a sign of things to come in Nigeria’s increasingly volatile and unpredictable political landscape. President Goodluck Jonathan has seen his authority challenged from many fronts recently, and last year, a spate of defections saw five state governors and dozens of lawmakers decamp from the PDP to the APC.
    The APC itself is a new party. It formed a year ago when several opposition parties merged, and with former PDP members swelling its ranks, it looks to be the first genuine challenger to the PDP’s 15-year reign. With the 2015 elections on the horizon, the political field is more open than it ever has been and the budget looks to be a major battleground.

    Politics of numbers

    The budget, which is usually presented by the president, was tabled before the National Assembly by the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister of the Economy, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, on 19 December. The president’s absence points to the fractious relationship between the executive and the legislators.
    “President Jonathan has been extremely cautious when dealing with both arms of the National Assembly and perhaps hoped by sending out the minister of the economy it would somehow douse tensions and remove him from the firing line,” Abubakar Mohammed, Professor in Political Science at Ahmadu Bello University, told Think Africa Press.
    Okonjo-Iweala presented the 2014 ‘Budget for Jobs and Inclusive Growth’ as one geared towards supporting a push in agriculture, kick-starting the housing sector, creating more jobs in manufacturing, and boosting industries in the mineral sector. But Okonjo-Iweala has become a lightening rod for criticism with politicians from both the APC and PDP criticising the level of consulation for, manner of communication about, and figures within, the proposed budget.
    continue reading on Think Africa Press
    By Lagun AkinloyeThink Africa Press

    Bahrain opposition submits views on National Dialogue

    http://gulfnews.com/news/gulf/bahrain/bahrain-opposition-submits-views-on-national-dialogue-1.1288344

    Dubai: The coalition of opposition societies has submitted its views on resuming the National Dialogue stalled after months of talks.
    The coalition, led by Al Wefaq Islamic Society, said that it had sent its views to the Minister of Royal Court Affairs Shaikh Khalid Bin Ahmad Al Khalifa who had held separate meetings with the parties expected to take part in the new look-national dialogue.
    All parties, including another coalition of political societies and independent members of the bicameral parliament, had been asked to present their visions on five major issues “in order to converge views among stakeholders on the agenda and start a new phase to complete the National Dialogue,” the Royal Court said last month.
    The stakeholders were asked to detail their proposals for the future on the legislative, judicial and executive branches, the electoral constituencies and security for all.
    The opposition said that their views focused on the comprehensive values of national unity to help build a stable future and put an end to three years of turbulent times and political crises.
    It said that it was looking forward to holding three meetings a week within a positive political atmosphere.
    The views by the opposition and the other parties will be reviewed by the Royal Court before the participants are brought together for the talks to be held under a new format, following the suspension on January 8 of the earlier dialogue launched on February 10, 2013.
    The dialogue was suspended after the 27 participants, representing the two political coalitions and delegates from the bicameral parliament and the government failed to agree on a specific format and to set an agenda for the talks meant to overcome sharp differences resulting from the dramatic events that unfolded in Bahrain in February and March 2011.
    Hope for the restart of the dialogue was revived in mid-January after Crown Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, based on directives from King Hamad, met the participants and stressed the significance of holding talks for the sake of the nation.
    Bahrainis are deeply divided over the merit of the dialogue as the healing process is being slowed down by the mistrust that has developed between segments of the society during and after the dramatic events of three years ago.
    However, optimistic voices have been calling for giving the new dialogue a chance to overcome differences on political matters.