Dawn of a new economic era
Page 1 of 2By Meera Ravi » Economic historians charting the development of the Gulf region will record for posterity that the oil boom of the 21st century brought some very different growth trajectories into play for the region. Where the Seventies saw oil money being invested in infrastructure, the key shift this time round has been the increased momentum of regional diversification.
It is no secret that Bahrain and the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) as a whole have benefited from increased oil revenues during 2006. But what is noticeable in this oil boom is the up-shift in diversification; in developing investment strategies for the long-term.
There has been a significant increase in both inward and outward foreign direct investment (FDI); most notably at an intra-regional level, but also on a global scale.
What this change demonstrates is a real commitment to sound, long-term planning to cement the future economic prospects of the region. It is indicative of the growing confidence of the Gulf that it is steering its own economic course for the future.
In Bahrain, the Ministry of Industry and Commerce has been particularly busy in preparing the ground for the beneficial growth surge from the Bahrain-USA Free Trade Agreement that was ratified in 2006.
“Whatever we do as a Ministry, it must be in support of the government's overall reform initiatives. His Majesty, King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, has initiated major initiatives with the aim of improving the political and socio-economic conditions in the country,” said Industry Minister Dr Hassan Fakhro.
“The main initiatives of the Ministry has been to reform and streamline our institutions and policies and procedures and regulatory systems to ensure the creation and the establishment of industries and businesses are conducted in the most efficient way.”
In its effort to woo investors with a red-carpet welcome, the Ministry has set up the Bahrain Investment Centre (BIC), an electronic one stop shop to ensure that the process of registering a company in the kingdom is done in the shortest time possible. In January 2006, Bahrain introduced new regulations governing the launch of businesses in the kingdom, making it easier, faster and cheaper to set up.
The rules did away with many of the pre-approvals previously required, and brought in a flat fee of BD20 for most business registrations. A new guidebook, published by the Bahrain Investor’s Centre, will help investors through the business start-up process, ensuring all questions are answered clearly.