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Oxford Business Group - Bahrain 2012 Report

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  • 1. 9Country ProfileIndustry, finance, energy, transport & tourism key sectorsPolitics dominates international coverage in 2011Land area expanding due to ongoing reclamation effortsHome to a diverse, multicultural population of 1.23m
  • 2. 10 COUNTRY PROFILE The country has long pursued a policy of economic diversification An island of commerce Leveraging natural strengths and strategic advantages As the Arabic word for “two seas”, Bahrain’s name refers (EDB), a state body tasked with formulating the coun- to the sweet-water springs that fill the Kingdom’s try’s long-term development strategy. aquifers and the salty seas that surround the island. The National Action Charter modernised the legisla- HISTORY: The Kingdom of Bahrain is home to one of tive side of government, and the parliament that was the region’s oldest civilisations, the Dilmun civilisation, suspended in 1975 was reconstituted. The Bahraini which dates back nearly 6000 years. Throughout his- parliament, known as the National Assembly, is made tory, Bahrain attracted the attention of empires and up of a lower house, the Council of Representatives, nations due to its strategic position in the Gulf. Conse- which is elected by universal suffrage, and an upper quently, the country was influenced by a number of pow- house, the Shura (consultative) Council, which is appoint- ers including the Persians, Sumerians, Assyrians, Arabs, ed by the King. The National Assembly consists of 80 Babylonians, Portuguese and the British. Bahrain was seats; 40 elected members sit on the Council of Rep- important to ancient Mesopotamia because it con- resentatives and 40 appointed members sit on the nected the lands of the present day Middle East and Shura Council. The upper parliament has the power to established sea lanes. Thus, the country thrived as a block legislation from the lower parliament. Elected commercial centre where merchants founded settle- members of the lower parliament serve four-year terms. ments that formed the backbone of the economy. The most recent elections were held in October 2010. GOVERNMENT: Bahrain declared independence from Special elections were held in September and October the British in 1971. Between 1961 and 1999, Bahrain 2011 to fill the 18 seats vacated by members of the Al was ruled as an emirate by the late Sheikh Isa bin Hamad Wefaq party, resulting in the largest number of women Al Khalifa. On his death in 1999, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa ever to be elected to the Council of Representatives, Al Khalifa, his son, became the island’s ruler and set in with four women now part of the 40 members. Al Wefaq motion a reform programme. did not participate in the elections. The Kingdom also In 2001, the National Action Charter was published, announced in May 2012 it would join Saudi Arabia in setting out key principles for the government of Bahrain, a closer political union, with the two states collaborat- including the establishment of a constitutional monar- ing on foreign, security and economic policy. chy, parliamentary elections, and universal suffrage for POLITICS: Protests flared up throughout the Kingdom men and women. The charter was ratified by a nation- in February and March of 2011, and demonstrations al referendum with 98.4% of voters in favour of trans- continued for the remainder of the year and into 2012. forming the hereditary emirate into a constitutional In response to the earlier political unrest, a National monarchy, thereby establishing the current Kingdom Dialogue was held on July 1, 2011 to engage the dif- of Bahrain ruled by King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. ferent factions of Bahraini society and to discuss fur- The executive government is headed by the prime ther political, economic, social and legislative reforms. minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who has This concluded with a number of recommendations been in place since 1971, making him the world’s for restructuring, including recognising the importance longest-serving prime minister. Executive authority is of further diversification; encouraging the role of the vested with the King and the Council of Ministers (the private sector; evaluating options for redirecting sub- cabinet), which is appointed by the King. Crown Prince sidies; placing new levies for indirect and corporate Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa is the deputy supreme com- taxes; resolving the issue of the high increase of guest mander of the Bahrain Defence Force as well as the workers; and supporting innovation programmes. One chairman of the Bahrain Economic Development Board outcome of the dialogue was a set of constitutional www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/country/Bahrain
  • 3. COUNTRY PROFILE 11amendments that make it easier to question and removeministers and withdraw confidence in the Council ofMinisters. According to a televised speech by the King,the purpose of the these amendments, ratified in May2012, is to increase dialogue on reform. Following the conclusion of the dialogue, the Kinglaunched the Bahrain Independent Commission ofInquiry (BICI) on June 29, 2011 to investigate the polit-ical unrest of earlier that year. The commission’s aimwas to determine if the events that began in February2011 had involved violations of international humanrights law and to provide recommendations for politi-cal stability. The commission was directed to issue a com-prehensive account of the events and describe anyacts of violence that occurred by highlighting all theparties involved and investigating allegations of policebrutality and violence by demonstrators. The official BICIReport was released on November 23, 2011 with numer-ous recommendations, and the National Commissionthat was tasked to follow up on the suggestions released From Islamic finance to offshore banking, financial services is a major contributor to the local economyits final report on March 20, 2012. Nevertheless, theopposition has claimed that the government’s reform FINANCIAL SERVICES: The financial services sector hasmeasures are taking too long to implement. been a great beneficiary of the economic diversifica-ECONOMIC OVERVIEW: Bahrain has set many region- tion programme. Sector assets amounted to $195.5bnal precedents; among others, it was the first country as of January 2012, contributing 25% of GDP. Therein the Middle East to discover oil in 1932. This sparked were 415 registered financial institutions operating ina major economic overhaul as the petroleum industry the Kingdom as of February 2012, up from 409 in 2011,developed, catalysing a process of modernisation that demonstrating that the regulatory system in placediverted the Kingdom’s economy away from tradition- helped to sustain the industry in 2011. As of 2009, theal mainstays such as pearl diving and fishing. Mindful sector employed roughly 15,000 people, 34% of whomof its finite hydrocarbons reserves, Bahrain pursued an were foreign nationals. Bahrain is also a major centreearly policy of economic diversification. This policy for offshore banking and funds in the region, with 2789formed the basis for the Economic Vision 2030, a devel- authorised funds registered as of February 2012.opment plan to improve Bahraini living standards. The ISLAMIC FINANCE: Bahrain is a major centre for Islam-campaign’s framework, the National Economic Strate- ic finance, and the sector’s assets totalled $24.4bn asgy, highlights the path to a stronger economy through of January 2012. The Kingdom is home to a number ofgrowth in the private sector as the government con- regulatory agencies and institutions that help to devel-tinues to invest in infrastructure and human resources. op standards and guidelines for the Islamic finance Bahrain has successfully developed its industrial and industry, including the Accounting & Auditing Organi-downstream sectors, and is home to one of the largest sation for Islamic Financial Institutions (AAOIFI), thealuminium smelters in the world, Aluminium Bahrain International Islamic Financial Market (IIFM), the Islam-(Alba). In 2011, overall GDP at constant prices had an ic International Rating Agency (IIRA), and the Generalannual growth rate of 2.2%, with the oil sector grow- Council for Islamic Banks and Financial Institutionsing at 3.4% and non-oil sector growing at 2.1%. (CIBAFI). As of January 2012, the country was home to The Kingdom ranked 38th in the World Bank’s 2012 26 Islamic banks as well as 18 takaful firms, which pro-“Doing Business” report, and for the third time ranked vide sharia-compliant insurance.37th in the World Economic Forum’s “Global Compet- TRANSPORT: Given its strategic maritime location anditiveness Report” in 2011. Bahrain was also notably proximity to Saudi Arabia – the largest market in theranked the 12th freest economy in the world and first Middle East – Bahrain has successfully established itselfin the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, as a transportation hub for the northern Gulf region.according to the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom. The country’s new Khalifa Bin Salman Port, the BahrainENERGY: Bahrain’s energy sector is a major source of International Airport and the overland route to Saudigovernment revenue. In 2011 oil accounted for approx- Arabia via the King Fahd Causeway helped establishimately 13% of GDP and 75% of government revenues. the nation as a focal point for transport and logistics.Onshore reserves discovered in the Awali Bahrain Field Expansion of the international airport, ongoing infra-yielded some 75,000 barrels per day (bpd) at its peak structure improvements and the planned Qatar-Bahrainin the 1970s. Output has since declined, falling to some Causeway will serve to further boost the Kingdom’s32,000 bpd in 2010. Forecasts suggest that by 2015, competitiveness as a transportation hub.Bahrain will account for 0.6% of Middle East regional TOURISM: Bahrain has a thriving tourism industry thatoil demand while providing 0.2% of supply. Gas produc- attracts visitors from both the region as well as furthertion in Bahrain totalled some 552bn cu ft during 2011. abroad. Tourists are drawn to Bahrain’s traditionally lib- THE REPORT Bahrain 2012
  • 4. 12 COUNTRY PROFILE eral atmosphere, rich history and culture. The Kingdom The capital Al Manamah, colloquially known as Man- offers a wide range of attractions, including historic mon- ama, sits on the northern portion of the main island, uments like the Al Khamis Mosque, which dates back with a population of roughly 200,000. Muharraq is the to 692 CE, and the modern Bahrain International Cir- second-largest island and is home to the country’s sec- cuit, host of a 2012 Formula 1 race. ond-largest city, which bears the same name. Other The tourism sector was adversely affected by the significant cities include Riffa, Sitra and Isa Town. political environment in 2011 with a major decline in At 122 metres, Jebel Al Dukhan is the Kingdom’s visitors and the cancellation of that year’s Bahrain For- highest point. Most of the islands are low-lying desert, mula 1 Grand Prix. However, tourism numbers improved and agrarian land is scarce, with only 2.82% arable. in 2012, and the meetings, incentives, conventions and CLIMATE: Bahrain has two seasons: a hot and humid exhibitions segment is back on track. Bahrain was des- summer and a mild winter. Summer begins around April ignated Capital of Arab Culture in 2012 and Capital of and continues through October. The average temper- Arab Tourism in 2013. Both should give the sector a ature in the summer is 36°C, with highs reaching 48°C. boost as visitors arrive for the scheduled fanfare. Sandstorms are not uncommon during the mid-sum- GEOGRAPHY: The total inland area of Bahrain is con- mer months. Winter is from November to April with tem- stantly expanding thanks to land reclamation projects. peratures ranging from 15°C to 24°C, and coolest In 2011, Bahrain grew to 765.3 sq km, up from 759 sq between December and March when the northerly km in 2010. The national archipelago consists of 33 winds prevail. Average annual rainfall is 77 mm. islands, and the four main islands are Bahrain Island, Al NATURAL RESOURCES: Oil, gas, fish and pearls are Muharraq Island, Sitra Island and Umm An Nasan Island, Bahrain’s most abundant natural resources. Due to the which make up approximately 95% of the total land area. desert climate, agricultural production is limited. Since These islands are connected through a series of cause- the discovery of oil in the 1930s, traditional industries ways, while more remote islands can be reached by boat. such as fishing and pearling have contributed signifi- Saudi Arabia is Bahrain’s closest neighbour to the cantly less to overall output but remain important areas north-west and across the Gulf of Bahrain, and they for employment and due to their traditional cultural sig- are linked by the 25-km King Fahd Causeway. Qatar lies nificance. Although the Kingdom was the first of the 28 km off the south-eastern coast. The two countries GCC states to discover hydrocarbons, it has smaller will eventually be linked by a causeway, which will be quantities of oil and gas than its neighbours. The gov- the world’s longest fixed link, extending some 40 km. ernment has accelerated exploration efforts and is
  • 5. COUNTRY PROFILE 13preparing to boost refining capacity. In 2010 produc-tion from the onshore Bahrain Field was raised for thefirst time in 30 years thanks to enhanced oil recoverytechniques. The Kingdom recently awarded a tenderfor deep gas exploration, and drilling has begun in off-shore blocks alongside an increase in onshore explo-ration. Bahrain also shares the yield from the offshoreAbu Safa field with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Water is a limited and dwindling resource in Bahrain.The main aquifer, Dammam, is becoming saline fromoveruse. As a result, Bahrain relies on desalinationplants to provide most of its potable water.POPULATION: The country’s population is diverse andmulticultural and home to a variety of different ethnic-ities. The 2010 census puts the total population of theKingdom at 1.23m, with 568,400 nationals and 666,200non-Bahrainis, who make up 54% of the total populace.Approximately 51.1% of the population are Bahrainicitizens, GCC citizens or hail from other Arab coun-tries; 45.5% are from Asia or Oceania; 1.6% are from Africa Infrastructure upgrades should cement the country’s status as a transport hub for the northern Gulfand the remaining 1.3% are from Europe and the Amer-icas. Males account for around 62% of the total, which women to participate in national elections, both ascan be attributed to the sizable expatriate workforce. voters and candidates. It was also the first state in theAn estimated 88.7% of the population live in urbanised Gulf to elect a female member of parliament, and thereareas, with 329,510 individuals residing in the Capital are currently four elected female members serving inGovernorate, home to the capital, Manama. the Council of Representatives.LANGUAGE: Arabic is the official language of Bahrain, EDUCATION: As a leader in the field of education,and Bahraini Arabic, similar to Khaleeji (Gulf) Arabic, is Bahrain was the first country in the Gulf to open a pub-the most common spoken form. English is widely used lic school for males in 1919 and the first to provideand is often the de facto language of business given schooling for females in 1928. Compulsory elementarythe ethnic and linguistic diversity of the country’s pop- education for children was introduced in 2001. Theulation. Road signs are usually in English and Arabic, World Economic Forum’s “Global Competitivenessand most documentation is available in both languages. Report 2011-12”, issued in October 2011, highlightedEnglish is a compulsory second language in local schools, Bahrain’s high rates of both primary and secondaryand Bengali, Farsi, Hindi, Malayalam, Tagalog and Urdu enrolment (97.3% and 96.4%, respectively) as well asare also well represented in society. the quality of education and availability of researchRELIGION: Islam is the official religion of Bahrain. Some and training services. Tertiary enrolment has increased98% of Bahraini nationals are Muslim of either Shia or threefold over the course of the last decade, and womenSunni following; however, the approximate percent- account for 70% of total students. The governmentage of each sect is widely disputed as there are no sta- pays all educational costs for Bahraini citizens, andtistics readily available. The Kingdom is one of the most 11% of total government expenditure is earmarked forreligiously tolerant states in the Gulf region and allows education. Bahrain’s literacy rate, which is approximate-for religious freedom, evidenced by the presence of ly 91.4%, is one of the highest in the region.mosques, churches, temples and synagogues through- Recent government programmes meant to furtherout the country. According to the 2010 census, 70% of improve education include teacher training schemes,the total population, including non-nationals, are Mus- a new polytechnic college, improvement of upper-sec-lim. Of the non-nationals, 54% are non-Muslim includ- ondary vocational programmes and a quality assur-ing Bahais, Buddhists, Christians, Hindus and Sikhs. ance initiative to raise the accreditation standards.Bahrain is also home to a small indigenous Jewish pop- HEALTH CARE: Bahrain has played a vital role in devel-ulation that is represented in the government. oping the region’s health care. The Kingdom is homeWOMEN: Bahrain also values the role that women play to the region’s oldest hospital, the American Missionin society. Women have actively contributed to the Hospital (AMH), established in 1902. Until the latecountry’s development since the late 1920s when they 1940s, AMH provided health care for both Bahrainiswere allowed to attend schools, receive formal educa- as well as neighbouring populations, including Saudis,tion and vote in municipal elections. Women’s rights who would travel to the island nation by boat for care.were further supported with the establishment of the Health care is completely subsidised for BahrainiNational Action Charter and the Supreme Council for nationals. There are 13 private hospitals and 11 gov-Women (SCW) in 2001. The SCW promotes the status ernment hospitals, including the recently opened Kingof women, awareness of their capabilities, ensures their Hamad University Hospital in 2012. Health care con-rights are protected and helps tackle various problems tinues to be a central focus as the government strivesin society. Bahrain was the first GCC state to allow to keep up with the significant growth in population. THE REPORT Bahrain 2012
  • 6. 14 COUNTRY PROFILE VIEWPOINT King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Our highest objective King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa on the report of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) The BICI Report deals with controversial matters of protection to the valuable right of free speech and to importance. The commission has sought to establish expand the definition of “torture” to ensure that all forms the true facts of a period of painful unrest, which has of ill treatment are covered by our criminal laws. Both affected all of Bahrain. The commission understood of these proposals would place our laws in full conform- the unprecedented challenges faced by our authori- ity with international human rights standards. We have ties. They have recognised the need for our authori- addressed issues of due process in criminal trials, in par- ties to re-establish public order in the face of violence ticular for the medical professionals. We have reviewed, and intimidation against ordinary people as well as and are continuing to review, the circumstances of job against the nation’s essential institutions. At the same dismissals and expulsions from educational institu- time, they have also identified serious shortcomings on tions. In addition to retrials and reinstatement, affect- the part of some organs of our government, particu- ed persons have access to many remedies, including larly in failing to prevent instances of excessive force the newly established Victims Compensation Fund. and of the mistreatment of persons placed under arrest. The BICI Report is lengthy and detailed. We must Some may wonder why we asked a commission of study it with the care it deserves. As the first step, a foreign experts to examine the events of February and working group of government members conducted an March 2011 and their subsequent ramifications. The in-depth reflection on the findings and recommenda- answer is that any government which has a sincere tions. This working group will then urgently propose con- desire for reform and progress understands the ben- crete responses to the recommendations. We intend efit of objective and constructive criticism. to waste no time in benefitting from this report. It pro- There are many examples of this around the world. vides an historic opportunity for Bahrain to deal with For example, in Europe, we see that leading national matters that are both serious and urgent. Officials who governments are routinely criticised by external insti- have not been up to their task must be held account- tutions which they have themselves created. Yet the gov- able, and will be replaced. Above all, we must conceive ernments of these countries do not denounce the and implement reforms that satisfy all segments of our European Court of Human Rights. They do not protest population. That is the only way to achieve reconcilia- or boycott the judges who criticised them. To the con- tion and to heal the fractures in our society. In order to trary, they are grateful to the court for having identi- ensure there is no return to unacceptable practices once fied the ways they must improve if they are to be in the commission has left Bahrain, we have decided to harmony with international law and morality. Nor does engage with international organisations and eminent the international community conclude that these are individuals to assist and advise our law enforcement oppressive governments. They are seen to follow a path agencies, and to improve their procedures. of wisdom, acknowledging they benefit from neutral We believe that the release of this report has opened investigations and from trusting their own capacity to a new page in history, which has been made possible use criticism constructively in their people’s interest. by the grace of God and because we have had the con- We are determined to ensure that the painful events fidence to resort to an objective and impartial body. our beloved nation has experienced are not repeated, Again, the nations of Europe are routinely held to but that we learn from them, and use our new insights account before the European Court in Strasbourg. That as a catalyst for positive change. court, through its judgements, has set the standard for Even before receiving the BICI Report, we have intro- modern international human rights. The same is true duced proposals to amend our laws to give greater of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/country/Bahrain
  • 7. COUNTRY PROFILE VIEWPOINT 15Rica. The whole world benefits from the jurisprudence Peninsula Shield Force, without any confrontation withof these courts. This shows us there is something miss- civilians; and to the multitude of ordinary Bahrainising. Surely, the Arab nations, with our ancient transi- who took a stand against the forces of violence andtions of fairness and justice, also have something to con- sectarian division in our kingdom.tribute. Surely, we too need to show that our officials We have every sympathy for those who sincerely andare subject to a higher law, and that we can be proud peacefully seek reforms within a pluralistic societyof our traditions of respect for human rights. where the rights of all are respected, but not for those Bahrain was an immediate supporter of the Arab who seek to impose totalitarian rule. Our desire for lib-Charter of Human Rights 15 years ago, but in truth this eral reform goes hand in hand with our deep disappoint-text has not created a system like those of Europe and ment, after having extended so many times the handthe Americas. I will propose to our fellow Arab states of friendship, towards the Islamic Republic of Iran, whichthat we now move concretely toward the creation of with the around-the-clock broadcasts in Arabic givenan Arab Court of Human Rights to take its proper place by Iranian state-controlled radio and television sta-on the international stage. tions, incited our population to engage in acts of vio- Bahrain assumes its international responsibilities lence, sabotage and insurrection. Iran’s propagandaseriously. Indeed, it has taken the initiative to contribute fuelled the flames of sectarian strife – an intolerableto collective international action by providing facilities interference in our internal affairs from which Bahrainfor multilateral organisations. In 2009, during the vis- has suffered greatly. As the chair of the commissionit of Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the UN, we ded- correctly said, the government of Bahrain is not in aicated a significant plot of land in our capital, Mana- position currently to provide evidence of links betweenma, to serve the community of the UN; it now houses Iran and specific events in our country. But this prop-a regional office of the UN Development Programme. aganda, an objective fact to be observed by all who haveWe would welcome other UN agencies, perhaps, for eyes and ears and comprehend Arabic, not only direct-example, by the establishment of a regional office of ly challenges our country’s stability and sovereignty, butthe UN Office on Drugs and Crime. also poses a threat to the security and stability of the Such international cooperation will of course not GCC countries. We hope that the Iranian leadership willreplace national initiatives. We previously announced reflect and abandon this policy of enmity and discord.the establishment of the National Institution for Human We affirm our commitment to ensuring the safetyRights as an independent body possessing its own and security of our nation and its people, and our com-organic law, to operate in accordance with the Paris Prin- mitment to reform and to the rectification of errors inciples, which embody international human rights stan- all transparency. We urge all our people to reflect upondards relevant to functioning national institutions. their own attitude and intentions, to address their mis- As for the government response to the report’s find- takes and to do their civic duty to contribute to nation-ings and recommendations, I say again that they involve al unity within a community of tolerance. Our highestfundamental issues, and must be dealt with urgently. objective, after pleasing God, is to promote brother- All of this being said, we cannot fail to extend our hood, harmony and tolerance amongst our people,gratitude to our armed forces and law enforcement within the environment of a pluralistic, cohesive andagencies who restored public order in the face of intim- prosperous society; a society guaranteeing the rule ofidation and violence; to our GCC allies who participat- law and human rights; a society ensuring the tranquiled in helping protect key installations by deploying the pursuit of opportunities and fulfilment for everyone. THE REPORT Bahrain 2012
  • 8. 16 COUNTRY PROFILE INTERVIEW Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of the King, and President, Supreme Council for Women Ensuring equality OBG talks to Princess Sabeeka bint Ibrahim Al Khalifa, Wife of the King, and President, Supreme Council for Women (SCW) How has the role of women in Bahraini politics pro- comprehensive programmes aimed at the economic gressed following the recent elections? empowerment of women to create new opportunities PRINCESS SABEEKA: Bahraini women’s progress in for them in cooperation with the concerned organisa- political life started in 2001, after King Hamad bin Isa tions in the Kingdom. We have recently launched sev- Al Khalifa announced reforms and a political moderni- eral projects to assist low-income families to start their sation process. Support for women from the leader- own businesses, taking into consideration the need to ship and the people is evident in the overwhelming make new business choices that are compatible with 98.4% vote in favour of the National Action Charter, market demand. Since then, we have succeeded in which ultimately led to an increase in the representa- attracting a significant number of women from differ- tion of Bahraini women internationally and locally in ent areas of the country to participate in these eco- ministerial and decision-making posts. The charter was nomic empowerment programmes. reflected in the constitutional articles that guaranteed Increasing the number of Bahraini women entrepre- the participation of women in political life and public neurs in different areas is a great step forward towards service while preserving a balance between their famil- economic empowerment; however, there are many ial roles and their work in society. It also emphasised other opportunities available to Bahraini women that the importance of ensuring the principles of equality can contribute to both personal gain and the econom- and justice. The SCW was very aware from the outset ic development of the country. Opportunities in the field of the need to launch special programmes to political- of medicine, law, architecture and consultancy are ly empower women, encourage them to exercise their always available to women with the right level of edu- rights and present them as a valuable and influential cation, training and guidance. Therefore, by develop- force in the decision-making process. ing long-term plans to offer the right tools and skills The recent increase in the number of women in the to Bahraini women, in accordance with the country’s legislative assembly (four women were newly elected economic vision, the SCW will be better able to empow- to the Council of Representatives, and 11 women were er women and simultaneously strengthen the econo- appointed to the Shura Council) is considered a signif- my of the Kingdom of Bahrain. icant boost to women’s contribution to political life in the Kingdom of Bahrain. This rise further proves the Why is the development of small and medium-sized amount of support that Bahraini women receive today enterprises (SMEs) important for creating oppor- and the trust they have earned in their capability to con- tunities for women? tribute to the national development in different fields, PRINCESS SABEEKA: SMEs offer a certain type of particularly in issuing legislation related to women, economic independence for Bahraini women that allow family and society as a whole. them to play an important role in developing the nation- al economy. These businesses can also further devel- Where do you see the greatest opportunities for op when the proper platform for growth is provided. women to enter the workforce to further acceler- In the Kingdom, many public and private organisations ate economic development in the Kingdom? such as Tamkeen, Bahrain Development Bank, UNIDO PRINCESS SABEEKA: As a result of specialised pro- and Ebdaa Bank are strategic partners in implement- grammes, Bahrain has been able to decrease the rate ing economic empowerment programmes for women of unemployment amongst women and men. The SCW with the council. There are also a number of examples is very keen to contribute to this effort by offering and success stories of women who managed their own www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/country/Bahrain
  • 9. COUNTRY PROFILE INTERVIEW 17businesses and, today, are regional businesswomen. contribute to the financing of different programmesSuch projects, if sustained, should allow women to par- and projects in efforts of implementing the nationalticipate in developing the economy while controlling work plan of the Council.capital and managing their lives. Today, the SCW is working on incorporating women’s The SCW is currently working on an economic empow- needs into the government’s workplans to guaranteeerment programme using a comprehensive economic that the programmes set for women are implement-system, either by administering training programmes ed; especially those that are concerned with servicesand providing qualifications in managing small business- provided to women and their status in the workplace.es and projects, or by providing financing opportuni-ties that can be facilitated through funds that offer cap- Looking forward, what are the greatest challengesital entrepreneurs need subject to basic rules and to the advancement of women’s rights in Bahrain?regulations. In addition to establishing a fund, financ- PRINCESS SABEEKA: There are bound to be chal-ing can be provided through the launch of economic lenges in every work environment that serve as lessonsincubators that offer a number of consultative servic- to grow from. Furthermore, Bahraini women’s aspira-es such as training, financing and promotion all offered tions are continuously developing, which adds impe-under one umbrella called the “Bahraini Women Devel- tus to our goal of providing them with the tools nec-opment Centre”, which is currently in its early stages. essary to pursue their ambitions.Being established by SCW in cooperation with the Perhaps one of the most significant challenges con-Bahrain Development Bank, the centre is expected to fronting women today is the issue of the availability ofbe fully operational by the end of 2012. opportunities that will allow them to become valuable resources at the national level. It is equally importantHow is the SCW working to increase training for to guarantee the enforcement of the constitutionalwomen and further develop their skills? laws that ensure women, given their social roles asPRINCESS SABEEKA: The SCW operates according to mothers, can balance between their family lives anda national strategy approved by the King. Such a strat- continue working and contributing to the broader soci-egy has been translated into a practical workplan that ety. This matter requires a significant amount of workincludes programmes and projects that accomplish a and a great deal of follow-up to ensure that womengreat deal for Bahraini women, while at the same time are given this opportunity in a way that preserves theirempowering and developing their skills further so they role as an important part of the workforce today whilecan add value to the process of the development of also allowing her be a key player in ensuring family sta-the national economy. The council also introduced a bility as a wife and mother.number of initiatives and awards that encourage gov- Further to ensuring equality and the empowermenternment and public sector organisations to empower of women, the Family Law in Bahrain remains a chal-Bahraini women in their organisations. These initia- lenge that needs to be actively addressed and lookedtives have managed to create a substantial impact on after, specifically because the law sets a standard tothe status of women in the workplace and achieve the protect women’s rights within the court system. Thedesired balance that ensures equal opportunities and fact that it has only been partially passed shows that,eliminates discrimination against women. The council despite some very important and crucial progress, thehas also signed a number of memorandums of under- journey towards the advancement of rights and oppor-standing with local and international organisations that tunities for women in Bahrain is far from complete. THE REPORT Bahrain 2012
  • 10. 18 COUNTRY PROFILE VIEWPOINT Abdul Latif bin Rashed Al Zayani, GCC Secretary-General, Shared objectives Abdul Latif bin Rashed Al Zayani, GCC Secretary-General, on regional development and security Bahrain is an integral part of the GCC and experi- the Arabian Gulf; and an assurance of free maritime ences many benefits of membership. While all GCC passage, particularly for oil and gas. member states have their own foreign policies, they Regional uncertainties and terrorism in the recent nevertheless communicate closely with each other. past have ensured that for military and counter-ter- It is difficult to find an example where, on important rorism issues, the GCC has reinforced and tightened global or regional matters, the members speak with internal liaisons and cooperation with friends and different voices. This is particularly important as we allies. Advice on regional issues is given freely and at are an intrinsic part of the Arabic and Islamic world, times member states have acted as useful interme- with our home at the epicentre of a turbulent region. diaries for discussion between parties. Nor have they The main challenges we confront are not dissimi- hesitated to assist each other, as in the case of the lar to those faced by most nations and international GCC’s moral and practical support for the Kingdom groupings. Regionally, these include the Middle East of Bahrain during internal disturbances in early 2011. peace process and other international cooperation While our security is best protected through inter- initiatives. Internally, nations face sectarian and national links and agreements and we would like to employment challenges, particularly among the youth; think that unilateral action is unlikely, we neverthe- potential food and water shortages; and the securi- less understand that we must be able to stand on our ty and conservation of oil and gas resources. These own in the event that GCC and external interests are challenges are seen as opportunities and call for focus not fully compatible. Consequently, steps are being and the strengthening of cooperation between mem- taken to further strengthen joint capabilities such as ber states, and between the GCC and other nations enhancing our multi-national military formations and and blocs. In particular, our leaders have the political ensuring closer coordination over such issues as air will to rise above the national level. space and CBRN protection. Additional measures are Our path to achieving this vision is set out across being taken to more closely coordinate efforts to the GCC’s five strategic goals, all of which are inter- counter organised transnational crime and thought linked and in some way or another impact on global is being given to establishing a GCC police force. dynamics. The recognition that security and stability Our next strategic goal is to sustain and increase are key to long-term success is reflected in our first economic growth. There is a huge amount of inter- strategic goal: to secure the GCC against all threats. nal and international cooperation and participation This objective addresses threats (intentional mali- in industry, commerce, finance and many other areas. cious acts such as external aggression, terrorism and Fortunately, the GCC has, through joint efforts, demon- serious organised crime), as opposed to all other risks, strated economic resilience in weathering the glob- which are covered under another goal. al financial crisis and is one of the few economic We regard the threat or use of force against any groupings to maintain healthy growth. For this to be member state as a threat to all members and we maintained and to preserve wealth for future gener- believe that disputes should be settled in a peaceful ations, we must place less emphasis on our abundant manner, utilising political dialogue. The key to secu- – but finite – natural resources, and concentrate more rity is consultation, coordination and cooperation on diversification. We see ourselves moving from between members and fellow Arab states and allies, being resource-fed economies to knowledge-based including on issues of terrorism and crime; rejection economies and welcome the attendant business of regional or international control or domination of opportunities for ourselves and our global partners. www.oxfordbusinessgroup.com/country/Bahrain
  • 11. COUNTRY PROFILE VIEWPOINT 19 As a bloc, we have promoted economic innovation. governance is the top priority of each member stateInternal investment has been encouraged and an eas- and each, in its own way, has democratic processesier crossflow of labour and a closer customs union which allow the voices of citizens to be heard. Withhave been provided for. Since the GCC Customs Union regard to Bahrain, there is optimism that the Kingdomwas launched in 2003, for example, trade between has resumed its upward curve following the initia-member states has increased by nearly 200%, or more tives and efforts of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.than 20% per year, from $30bn in 2002 to over $90bn These include the establishment of an Independentin 2011. Similarly, with the GCC Common Market Commission of Enquiry, made up of internationallaunch in 2008, investors have equal access to mar- experts in human rights and criminal law, the recom-kets across the GCC and have the right to engage in mendations of which has the full support of the GCC.any economic activity within the council. As a result, The fourth GCC strategic goal is to improve publicintra-GCC investments have jumped by nearly 50% safety by developing strategies for risk awareness,and the movement of people between member states risk management and crisis management. This goal,has also increased significantly. through close cooperation with national agencies, is Steps have been taken towards creating a tighter the foundation for providing the bloc with a degreemarket and fiscal union and further integration is pro- of resilience against all risks. It will be driven by avided for through schemes like a trans-GCC railway newly established GCC Emergency Management Cen-system and interlinked power grids. We are moving tre, which, in addition to coordinating all aspects oftoward achieving GCC economic citizenship. risk management will also be responsible for an Our third strategic goal, to encourage and maintain enhanced programme of GCC disaster emergencya high level of human development, directly affects assistance wherever it may be required worldwide.every other goal in a social, political, economic and Strengthening the international status of the GCC,security sense. It covers all aspects of improving stan- which is at the heart of regional and international dia-dards of living: eradicating unemployment, creating logue and cooperation, is the final key objective. It isopportunities for youth, and providing high-quality through this goal that we hope to show the readinesseducation, health care, housing and community serv- of the GCC to contribute to solving regional and glob-ices. Member states aspire to see development al challenges. Recent work includes donations forprocesses and political systems which serve to ele- humanitarian and development aid throughout Africavate and fulfil the wishes and needs of their people, and Asia; relief and reconstruction aid to various coun-with citizens from all levels of society feeling that tries in the region and elsewhere; and developmentthey have been provided with unsurpassed advan- programmes in Yemen and the Gaza Strip.tages and benefits and a high quality of life. I hope that by learning a little more about the GCC, At the GCC level, under Common Market rules, social readers will see the present and future Kingdom ofand welfare development has been expanded across Bahrain within the context of broader horizons as aborders. GCC citizens now have the right to equal valued and integral member of the council. Whethertreatment in all member states when seeking educa- one is doing business in Bahrain or any other oftion and medical care or accessing social services. the member states, it is certain that investments are It is the human factor, linked to government process- going toward a stable and growing region – one thates, which often cause the most misunderstandings and gains strength from unity, mutual depth, support,questions to be raised. Let there be no doubt that good resilience, shared forward thinking and a common vision. THE REPORT Bahrain 2012

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