(MENAFN - The Peninsula) Business circles are not excited about their annual consultative meeting with the Prime Minister which is slated to be held by month-end or early June.
What seems to have dispirited businessmen is the government's inability so far to crack down on monopolistic business practices and make them bring their prices down for the benefit of the consumer.
At last year's meeting, the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, had issued a stern warning, especially to automobile dealers to bring car prices down on a par with those in neighbouring GCC countries.
He had said that if they and other exclusive dealers of foreign goods and services did not fall in line the very dealership system would be scrapped.
However, a year has lapsed but nothing has been forthcoming, say business circles ruing that cars continue to be expensive in the country. And instead of punishing the car dealers for keeping their prices high defying the directives, the state last March rewarded them with plots of land in the New Industrial Area, say critics.
Automobile dealers were part of the 520 businesses that have been allocated land in the New Industrial Area, the QCCI announced early last March.
The Ministry of Business and Trade (under which falls the Consumer Protection Department) also issued warnings to the car dealers but in vain. They remained defiant.
The Ministry did convene meetings with car dealers but not many of the dealers turned up," said Nasser Al Khaledi, a key corporate figure.
The failure to rein in the dealers is due to lack of follow-up by the government and lack of transparency, said Al Khaledi, CEO of Qatar-Oman Investment Company.
"They (the dealers) simply don't bother," he said in remarks to The Peninsula yesterday. "However, the dealers are not to blame. There are powerful vested interests in the country who don't want the monopolies to end," he said.
Prominent businessman and industrialist, Abdul Hadi Al Shahwani, seemed to be equally disappointed and said the first consultative meeting of the Prime Minister with businessmen was a great success. "But after that the annual event seems to have become a routine," he said.
Such meets must have a specific agenda and holding them impromptu and without prior planning can hardly yield any fruitful results, Al Shahwani said in remarks to this newspaper.
"What's the point in holding such meetings if the recommendations made are not implemented to benefit the people at large," said Al Shahwani. "A meeting must be held to serve some purpose," he said.
Al Shahwani said he did not think that this year's interface would be largely attended.