Manama: The Crown Prince yesterday stressed the importance of building on Bahrain’s achievements and attracting high levels of new investement.
His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander, First Deputy Premier, and Economic Development Board (EDB) chairman was chairing a meeting of the EDB board.
The Crown Prince drew attention to EDB’s achievements in 2017. He noted that, in working alongside public and private sector partners to develop Bahrain’s key economic sectors, the EDB continues to deliver significant progress in-line with His Majesty King Hamad’s vision for a modern, diverse economy.
He praised EDB’s role supporting the growth of Bahrain’s non-oil sector and its contribution to GDP, noting that EDB initiatives reinforce diversification efforts by ensuring the private sector remains the primary engine of growth.
The Crown Prince highlighted the need to continue attracting new investment into the Kingdom to ensure Bahrain’s key sectors benefit from global expertise and knowledge transfer.
He welcomed the EDB’s new board members and wished them success in their roles.
EDB chief executive Khalid Al Rumaihi said the EDB surpassed its 2017 targets in terms of new projects and local job creation – with 2,831 new jobs created in the private sector. Direct investment doubled last year to reach $733 million.
He noted that Bahrain’s non-oil sector grew by 4.8 per cent in 2017 – one of the highest levels of growth in the region – and now constitutes more than 80pc of the kingdom’s GDP. He emphasised the EDB’s own contribution to diversification, noting that since its inception in 2001 the non-oil sector has achieved an average of 7.5pc annual growth.
Mr Al Rumaihi summarised the EDB’s advocacy initiatives aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of target sectors, promoting economic openness, and cultivating an environment conducive to entrepreneurship.
He highlighted EDB’s work with stakeholders in the public and private sectors, which led to the launch of a number of initiatives in 2017, including the creation of a Regulatory Sandbox and crowdfunding regulations; measures to protect minority shareholder rights; commercial registration of incubators, accelerators and start-ups; and the establishment of the SME Board.
Mr Al Rumaihi said the kingdom saw a number of large investments in 2017, including by Amazon Web Services, which announced the opening of its first ‘Region’ in the Middle East by 2019, as well as investments by Mondelez and Paytabs.
These success stories are testament to Bahrain’s ability to attract quality investment by introducing investors to the kingdom’s business landscape and value proposition, including its strengths as a hub from which to access neighbouring markets, he said.
Mr Al Rumaihi also discussed new initiatives to further support the kingdom’s transition to a digital economy, improve business licensing procedures, advance the SME ecosystem, and enhance the logistics and manufacturing sectors.
The meeting also discussed the launch of FinTech Bay. Bahrain FinTech Bay will play a key role in facilitating collaboration between all market participants and stakeholders in the FinTech ecosystem, and will be the biggest dedicated FinTech hub in the region.