Bahrain’s business-friendly policies ‘attracting investors’

Bahrain’s investment climate is positive and relatively stable, according to a new assessment by the US government.

The 2021 Investment Climate Statements just released by the US State Department say “the kingdom maintains a business-friendly attitude and liberal approach to attracting foreign investment and business”.

The opinion of the world’s largest economy is backed by the latest World Investment Report (WIR 2021) from the UN Conference of Trade and Development (Unctad), which found that Bahrain’s foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows increased by $1.007 billion in 2020.

Despite global trends, the country experienced a 3.3 per cent increase in inward FDI stocks, reaching $31.7bn in 2020.

Also highlighted by Unctad was Bahrain’s stock to GDP ratio, where inward FDI stocks relative to GDP reached 92pc, the highest ranking in the GCC and surpassing the global average of 49pc.

The US report says the financial services, manufacturing, logistics, education, healthcare, real estate, tourism, and information and communications technology (ICT) sectors have attracted the majority of FDI, in line with the efforts of the kingdom’s government.

Also, the latest figures released by Bahrain’s Information and eGovernment Authority (iGA) show non-oil trade has quickly rebounded from a low point in 2020.

International trade was severely hampered in Q2-2020 as lockdowns caused borders to close and significantly disrupted supply chains.

Commenting on the turnaround, Ali Al Mudaifa, the executive director of the Economic Development Board (EDB), said: “Bahrain’s strong rebound from the pandemic demonstrates the continuing integrity of our robust supply chains and illustrates our position as a key logistics hub in the Gulf region. Companies here benefit from a competitive business environment, the region’s best-value operating costs and one of the most skilled workforces. The kingdom also offers 100pc foreign ownership in most business sectors.”

The EDB is the national investment promotion agency and has been recognised by the international economic development organisation OCO Global for its resilience in responding to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, ranking sixth in the world with the most resilience to add new source markets in the 2021 OCO Global Innovation Index.

The agency whose mandate is to attract investments in order to create jobs in the local market, says inward investments in 2020 will create more than 4,300 jobs over the next three years.

The US analysis says to strengthen Bahrain’s position as a startup hub in the region and to enhance its investment ecosystem, the government launched Bahrain FinTech Bay in 2018; issued new pro-business laws; and established the $100 million Al Waha venture capital fund for Bahraini investments and the $100m superfund to support the start-up growth.

In 2017, the kingdom expanded the number of sectors in which foreigners are permitted to maintain 100pc ownership in companies to include tourism services, sporting events production, mining and quarrying, real estate, water distribution, water transport operations, and crop cultivation and propagation.

In May 2019, Bahrain loosened foreign ownership restrictions in the oil and gas sector, allowing full foreign ownership in oil and gas extraction projects under certain conditions.

Last week, Finance and National Economy Minister Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa received the US State Department’s deputy assistant secretary for Arabian Peninsula Affairs Daniel Benaim.

During the meeting, the minister highlighted the depth of historic and strategic ties between the Bahrain and the United States and underlined the importance of further developing Bahrain-US partnerships, particularly within economics and finance.




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