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The Kingdom combines modern infrastructure with a strong sense of its traditions and history.Bahrain is the most diversified economy in the Gulf region. Its prosperity is hence not solely a reflection of the size of its oil wealth, but is also related to the forward-thinking attitude that saw the country pioneer a number of important non-oil activities in the region, for instance financial services.

Bahrain maintains a liberal business environment for which it has gained repeated international recognition. It boasts unrivalled access to the markets of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, along with the wider MENA region.The Gulf and the wider MENA region are one of the world’s most important economic blocks. The GCC economy is worth more than US$1.6 trillion and is projected to reach $2 trillion by 2020. The economy will continue to expand as the world’s energy hub through increasing investment in infrastructure and economic diversification. The World Bank estimates growth in the MENA region to be 2.9% in 2014 and 3.8% in 2015.

The Kingdom has strong regional transport links (road, sea, and air) and its strategic geographical position, at the heart of the Gulf, provides easy access to the wider region. Bahrain is connected by a 25km causeway to Saudi Arabia. A causeway is also due to be built linking Bahrain to Qatar. In addition, Bahrain is further served by the Bahrain International Airport, home to Bahrain’s national carrier, Gulf Air, which has a comprehensive regional network of destinations, and hosts over 40 other airlines, including cargo and charter flights,connected to 50 international destinations.In recent years member states have taken greater advantage of the opportunities the GCC alliance creates. Bahrain is a major beneficiary, most notably for banking and related financial services, and will continue to benefit from further trade and business integration efforts.

Information kindly provided by the
Bahrain Economic Development Board


The opening decade of the 21st century proved to be a period of rapid economic development for Bahrain. The expansion has been driven in no small measure by potent structural growth drivers in the form of demographic dynamics, regional connectivity, and economic diversification. Real output growth between 2000 and 2012 averaged 5.0% annually, driven by high oil prices, growing government spending, a real estate boom, and high demand for private, social, and personal services (primarily private health and education).

The Bahraini economy has experienced a consistent and broad-based rebound in economic activity since the start of 2012. In spite of the unusually uncertain global backdrop, a strong rebound in the non-oil sector of the economy helped Bahrain’s economy grow 3.6% during 2014. The non-oil economy expanded by 7% in 2012, as the economy rebounded from slower growth in 2011. This trend continued into 2013 with real GDP growth increasing to 5.3% with growth expected to moderate to 3.7% in 2014.

Economic growth has remained fairly strong virtually across the whole non-oil economy of Bahrain. The fastest growing sectors in 2013 were the hydrocarbons sector, followed by hotels and restaurants, and social & personal services.
Bahrain’s headline GDP growth in 2013 was 5.3%. In order to support further economic growth through 2014, a continued programme of economic reform is underway to focus on strengthening the business fundamentals of the Kingdom.

This supports the ongoing goal of helping foreign investors access opportunities in Bahrain as well as using Bahrain as a staging post for further economic activity around the $1.6 trillion GCC market.

Bahrain maintains its position as the freest regional economy and with a favourable regulatory environment, the Kingdom is not limited by special free zones or jurisdictions that can be found in other GCC markets, enabling all foreign investors to maintain 100% ownership where they choose to do so

Bahrain has a strong value proposition due in part to its highly skilled and bi-lingual local workforce, the vast majority of which are employed in the private sector, as evidenced by the fact that 66% of financial services jobs in the Kingdom are occupied by Bahrainis

During 2013, there was a significant oversubscription for the Government’s issuance of a $1.25 billion thirty year bond. This is on the back of bond yields and CDS spreads reverting to pre-2011 levels and is a strong indication of investor confidence in the steps being taken by the Government.

An additional $10billion of capital expenditure for projects will be made available over a ten year period by the GCC Development Fund. The focus will be on housing, schools, healthcare, transportation infrastructure and the power sector.

A key economic opportunity in the coming years will be the arrival of approximately 7,000 graduates a year to the job market. This will constitute a steadily growing pool of new qualified employees for existing enterprises but will also drive entrepreneurship as an increasingly important source of diversification and growth.

The first amongst the GCC member states to discover oil, the Kingdom of Bahrain was also the first Gulf economy to diversify away from oil as its primary driver of economic growth. While Bahrain continues to enjoy a strong income from oil, as it contributes to over 80% of government revenues, it has a diverse economy where the upstream hydrocarbons sector now accounts for less than 25% of real GDP. Other sectors of comparable importance include financial services and manufacturing, which is increasingly driven by downstream investments.

Bahrain has highly developed commercial links with a number of world economies through various bilateral and multilateral agreements. Net services exports increased by 6% in 2013
led by non-oil exports (23% YoY increase) and Financial Services (7%). Many international companies have established a presence in Bahrain due to its attractive environment and pioneering commercial advantages, including the 2006 Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Bahrain and the USA, which was the first such agreement between the US and a Gulf state to be signed and ratified.

Financial services are a significant and growing sector of Bahrain’s economy. With over four decades of serving as a regional banking hub, it is the most established financial centre in the Gulf with over 400 established financial institutions.

The financial sector in Bahrain has grown rapidly in the last decade; the financial services sector currently accounts for around 17% of GDP8 and employs over 14,000 people of which almost two thirds are Bahrainis.

The sector operates as an integral part of the economy, not in a free zone or a separate jurisdiction.

The insurance sector is noticeably thriving in Bahrain; from 2003 to 2013, Bahrain’s insurance sector grew by an annual average of 14% in real terms. The sector contributed BD 583.5
million to the economy in nominal terms in 2013 and accounted for around 30 percent of the finance sector.
Aluminium production constitutes one of the key pillars of manufacturing in the Kingdom and Bahrain’s second major export after oil. Bahrain is home to Alba, one of the world’s largest aluminium smelters, producing the highest-grade material and creating significant opportunities in downstream aluminium manufacturing. The strength of the aluminium industry in Bahrain was underlined in Alba’s 2013 Annual Report, when it revealed revenues of $2bn. Alba’s annual production is currently over 912,000 metric tonnes, and key
investments in coming years include the Line 6 expansion project, which will further increase annual production by 400,000 tonnes to reach an annual production capacity of 1.3 million metric tonnes.

According to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Bahrain remains the Middle East / North Africa (MENA) region’s most economically free country. Overall, the Kingdom is ranked 13th out of 178 economies worldwide, between the United States and the United Kingdom which rank 12th and 14th respectively, and is the only MENA country to rank in the top 2011. In the 20 year history of the index, Bahrain has consistently achieved a score greater than 70, well above the world average. The Kingdom’s 2014 economic freedom score is 75.1. The report highlights that the Kingdom’s “transition to greater openness and diversification is based on foundations of economic freedom,” and that Bahrain “continues to be a financial hub for dynamic economic activity, with high levels of trade and investment bolstered by a competitive and efficient regulatory environment”.

Bahrain is the 8th most economically free nation in the world, according to the Economic Freedom of the World: 2013 Annual Report published by the Fraser Institute12. This is the second consecutive year Bahrain has ranked in the top ten. The index measures the degree to which the policies and institutions of countries are supportive of economic freedom and Bahrain has achieved an overall score of 7.93 out of 10, an improvement from 7.8 in last year’s report.

In 2014, Bahrain ranked as the 44th most competitive country in the world according to the Global Competitiveness report, produced by the World Economic Forum (WEF).

The Kingdom’s main strengths are its institutional framework (29th) and infrastructure (31st). Bahrain’s competitiveness reflects the highly efficient goods market (21st), labour market (26th), and developed financial markets (31st).

Stock Market

The Bahrain Bourse, established in 1989 and privatised in 2010, is recognised as the most open capital market in the GCC region. There are currently 43 equities, 9 bonds (both conventional and Islamic) and 21 mutual funds listed on the Exchange.16 As of September 2014, the exchange had a market capitalisation of around US$22.4 billion. There are 17 brokers active in the market and day to day activity takes place through automated trading system (ATS).

Information kindly provided by the
Bahrain Economic Development Board

Standard Of Living

Because of its warm climate and also warm, calm and clear waters of the Persian Gulf, the multicultural country Bahrain is a popular destination for many tourists. Its standard of living is very high and the local people are liberal and tolerant. Despite many Western perceptions of Middle Eastern countries, Bahrain enjoys one of the highest levels of economic freedom in the world. In the Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation, Bahrain was in 19th place out of 162 listed countries, higher than many long established economies.


According to the U.S Department of State “The government has used its oil revenues to build an advanced infrastructure in transportation and telecommunications”.

The countries primary airport, Bahrain International airport is located a short distance northeast from the capital Manama. The airport claims to have “the widest range and highest frequency of regional services with ideal connections to major international destinations in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Far East and Australasia”. Additionally three seaports serve the country Manama, Mina Salman and Sitrah.


The Central Informatics Organisation (CIO) estimates Bahrain’s population at 1.2mn in 2012, an increase of 87% since 2001, and expats represent roughly half the population.

The number of employed Bahrainis reached 154,611 at the end of Q4 2014, representing an annual growth rate of 1.6% according to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA). Additionally, at the end of Q2 2014 total foreign employment in the Kingdom had increased to 512,501, representing an annual growth rate of 0.6%.

During the second quarter of 2014, the LMRA issued 31,134 work visas for regular workers, a quarter-on-quarter growth of 14%.

The median monthly wages for Bahrainis was BD508 ($1,347) in Q2 2014, compared to BD 503 ($1,334) the previous year, representing an annual growth rate of 1%.

Information kindly provided by the
Bahrain Economic Development Board

Business Costs

Both, the cost of living in Bahrain and the costs of doing business are the lowest in the region; taxes are low in comparison to the taxes in the other Gulf States. The low energy costs, but also the very low labour costs make it possible to establish business in Bahrain and to make it successful.
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