Low oil prices will undoubtedly continue to be a significant challenge for Bahrain in 2016. However the kingdom’s early moves to diversify its economy mean the country is well placed to weather the storm and non-oil segments are expected to continue performing well in 2016.
The energy sector still represents the biggest contributor to the kingdom’s GDP, although its share of the economy has been falling as non-oil sectors continue to drive growth. The kingdom’s financial sector represents the second-largest contributor to GDP, accounting for 16.5% in 2014, with Bahrain recognised as a pioneer in Islamic finance, having been the first country in the world to introduce and implement rules specific to Islamic banking in 2001.
Manufacturing is the third-largest GDP contributor, at 14.4% of the total in 2014, with the kingdom home to one of the world’s largest aluminuim smelters. Meanwhile, Bahrain continues to invest in considerable infrastructure upgrades, and these are expected to enhance the kingdom’s logistics offerings, as well as help facilitate greater tourism numbers.
For its part, tourism has been identified as an area with significant potential for growth, with the Supreme Council for Tourism created to help guide and develop the sector.
1. Country Profile
- The country of two seas: A stable player in the region raises its profile internationally
- Steadying the ship: With growth moderate, government boosts public spending
- Preparing for the future: Declining production in the Gulf has GCC nations looking elsewhere to assure food security
- Managing growth: A youthful population has the potential to boost Gulf economies
- "Interview: Li Yong, Director-General, UN Industrial Development Organisation"
- Broad appeal: The kingdom is taking a holistic approach to economic development, and diversification is a key goal
- "Interview: Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive, Bahrain Economic Development Board"
- "Interview: Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, Chairman, Tamkeen"
- Exploring options: The government faces a tricky task over subsidy cuts
- "Interview: Mahmood Al Kooheji, CEO, Mumtalakat"
- Solid investment: The sovereign wealth fund is eyeing further expansion
- Small and medium at large: The government’s support for SMEs demonstrates recognition of their importance
- Leading by example: Strong financials give this regional leader global sway
- "Viewpoint: Rasheed Al Maraj, Governor, Central Bank of Bahrain"
- Pushing plastic: New offers are increasing the popularity of credit cards
- "Interview: Ahmed Dayyat, Country Head, Mashreq Bank Bahrain"
- Head of the back office: A well-trained workforce is key to regional financial leadership
4. Capital Markets
- Altitude adjustments: A range of new developments are helping expand the sector
- "Viewpoint: Najla M Al Shirawi, CEO, Securities & Investment Company"
- Bearing standards: How the country’s institutions are gaining influence
- Public outreach: A multi-faceted approach to spreading awareness of the bourse’s offerings
- A two-pronged bid: Moves to expand stock market appeal
- "Market Analysis: Market analysis & data provided by Securities & Investment Company (SICO):"
- Strong potential: Equities
- Tapping the markets: Bonds
- A welcome addition: Real estate investment trusts
- A leader in its field: Islamic finance
5. Islamic Financial Services
- At the forefront: The country remains a leading global centre for Islamic finance
- "Interview: Shaikha Hessa bint Khalifa Al Khalifa, Chairperson, Al Salam Bank-Bahrain"
- Encouraging adoption: Supporting a forward-looking approach to reforms
- "Interview: Hassan Jarrar, CEO, Bahrain Islamic Bank"
- Uneasy ground: Efforts are afoot to solidify standards and improve access to liquidity
- Lead position: By capitalising on its expertise in the sector, Bahrain is consolidating its reputation as a key regional insurance player
- All together now: The major insurance centres of the Gulf are exploring regulatory harmonisation
- Playing to its strengths: The growth of reinsurance activity in Bahrain is supported by a robust regulatory system
- A diverse base: The development of innovative methods for oil recovery boosts production and eases constraints
- "Interview: Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza, Minister of Energy"
- Powering up: Rising demand fuels a range of investments in electricity and other public infrastructure
- Bright prospects: A range of initiatives expand the use of greener energy sources
- Over land and sea: A new causeway is just part of bold expansion plans
- "Interview: Maher Salman Al Musallam, CEO, Gulf Air"
- Going places: The transport network is set for further expansion
- Local heroes: GCC funding is enabling the kingdom to push ahead with a raft of infrastructure projects
9. Construction & Real Estate
- A stable outlook: A varied range of projects is in progress as the sector reaps the benefits of GCC investment
- "Interview: Faisal Faqeeh, Chairman, Bin Faqeeh Real Estate Investment Company"
- Moving on: A judicial committee will review developments that have ground to a halt
- Working together: Public-private partnerships are helping to address a nationwide shortage of social housing
- Signs of progress: The sector is recovering, with retail and hospitality gaining visitors, and housing benefitting from GCC funds
- "Interview: Mohammed Khalil Alsayed, CEO, Ithmaar Development Company"
- Rights and responsibilities: A new tenancy law will bring increased clarity for landlords and tenants
- Keeping busy: The kingdom is investing in capacity expansion as the non-oil sector drives growth
- "Interview: Tim Murray, CEO, Aluminium Bahrain (Alba)"
- Timing investment: Adding a sixth production line in preparation for a recovery in aluminium prices
- Sweet tooth: Confectioners are investing locally to feed growing populations across the region
- Far and wide: The extension and upgrading of facilities is attracting a growing number of visitors
- Come one, come all: The kingdom hosts a wide range of experiences to attract visitors from near and far
- Time to shine: Manama’s status as 2016 tourism capital set to boost the sector
- Destination management: Public-private collaboration is helping to enhance the sector
- Bridging the gap: Public investment aims to improve state schools and boost national attainment levels
- A two-pronged approach: Boosting national employment by focusing on localisation and training programmes
- Learning network: Using technology to help push the boundaries of education
- Quality boost: High educational standards mean the country continues to draw international students
- Keeping pace: Changes are afoot as the sector adapts to new conditions
- Nurses needed: Training students to enter the medical profession with an eye to raising Bahrainisation rates
14. Telecoms & IT
- Diversifying trends: New entrants and sector reforms increase competition
- Interview: Muna Al Hashemi, CEO, Batelco
- Network restructuring: The government is seeking a regulatory structure that will maximise broadband coverage
- Extending the reach: Leveraging an open regulatory environment for continued regional competitiveness in ICT
15. Legal Framework
- Rule of law: An overview of recent amendments to the Commercial Companies Law
- Business boom: Real estate development
- "Viewpoint: Hatim Q Zu’bi, Partner, Zu’bi & Partners, Attorneys & Legal Consultants"
16. The Guide
- Sleep easy: Hotels and their services
- Listings: Important numbers
- Facts for visitors: Useful tips for new arrivals