General Information

Capital(s): Al-Manámah
Population: 688,345 (2007)
Area: 665 Km²
Currency: Bahrain Dinar (BD)
Language(s): Arabic, English
Time Zone: GMT+3h00
ISO Code: BH
Dialing Code: +973

Overview

The independent State of Bahrain consists of a group of 35 islands situated in the Arabian Gulf between the Qatar peninsula and the north-east coast of Saudi Arabia. The capital city is Manama which is also the main commercial centre. Other major cities include Isa Town, Rifa, Hamad Town and Al Muharraq which has Bahrain’s international airport, major fishing and ship building industry. Sitra is the main industrial island and Awali is an oil town located on the main island of Bahrain.

The official language is Arabic, however English, Farsi and Urdu are widely spoken. The local currency is the Bahraini dinar (BD) broken into 100 fils.

Bahrain is a monarchy.

Bahrain has one oil field Awali, with proven oil reserves of 148 million barrels. The field was discovered in 1932. The country is more important as a refining centre. It has a refinery south of Manama with a capacity of 248,900 bbl/d. The Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco) refinery is undergoing a modernisation project that began in 1998, and is expected to be completed in 2004. Bahrain is in a dispute with Qatar over the Hawar Islands off Qatar’s west coast. The Hawar Islands may contain oil deposits.

Bahrain has natural gas reserves of about 3.9 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), most of which consists of associated gas from the Awali oilfield.

Bahrain has transformed itself into an international banking centre, focusing on mainly offshore banking utilizing the country’s excellent communication and transportation facilities. Principal agricultural products are mainly dates, melons and tomatoes. The country produces meat, dairy and poultry as well as fish for domestic consumption and export purposes.

The transport system in Bahrain is excellent and there is an international airport in Al Muharraq. You can fly to Bahrain from most countries in Europe and the Middle East.

The international time zone is GMT + 3. The international dialing code is + 973. All nationals’ require visas unless they hold passports from the Gulf Co-operations Council (GCC) states or the UK.

The state of health, the current immunisation status, location and the local disease situation lead to the risk of contraction of hepatitis A and B. A yellow fever certificate is required if entering from a yellow fever zone.

International Trade

Bahrain’s major export commodities include aluminium, miscellaneous manufactured goods and petroleum products while major imports include bauxite, food ingredients, machinery, miscellaneous manufactured goods and time pieces and parts.

Bahrain actively encourages foreign private investment, especially in sectors which are export orientated and do not compete directly with established local enterprises and goods imported via Bahrain for transshipment or re-export face no duty.

Duty free access to neighbouring GCC countries is possible from Bahrain, while unification of customs tariffs is under preparation and no import or export licenses are required (except for arms and ammunition, and alcoholic beverages).

Imports of a few commodities are prohibited from all sources for reasons of health, public policy or security, such as non-medicinal drugs.

There is a free transit area and a free trade zone industrial area, both at Mina Sulman.

Exports commodities: petroleum and petroleum products, aluminum, textiles

Exports partners: Saudi Arabia 3%, US 2.5%, UAE 2.2% (2005)

Imports commodities: crude oil, machinery, chemicals

Imports partners: Saudi Arabia 34.8%, Japan 6.9%, Germany 6.6%, US 5.6%, UK 4.1% (2005)

Politics

Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy under a constitution that came into force in 2002. The executive branch consists of the king, who is head of state, and an appointed prime minister and cabinet. The national legislature is the National Assembly, consisting of an appointed 40-member Consultative Council and an elected 40-member Chamber of Deputies. Members serve for a four-year term. Administratively, the country is divided into five municipalities. The inaugural elections were held in 2002, with parliamentarians serving four year terms. Bahrain is a member of the UN, Arab League, Gulf Co-operation Council, OPEC and Organization of the Islamic Conference.

Economy

Bahrain is the fastest growing economy in the Arab world, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia found in January 2006. Bahrain also has the freest economy in the Middle East according to the 2006 Index of Economic Freedom published by the Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal, and is twenty-fifth freest overall in the world. Bahrain is home to numerous multinational firms with business in the Arabian Gulf. Political parties are prohibited but political societies were legalized in a July 2005 law.

Bahrain was once a chief center of pearling, but the industry declined in the 20th century. Oil was found in 1931 and oil revenues have financed extensive modernisation projects, particularly in health and education. Oil and petroleum products account for about 60% of Bahrain’s exports. However, Bahrain is expected to be the first Persian Gulf nation to run dry of oil, and steps have been taken to diversify the nonagricultural sector of the economy. Ship-repair, aluminum-smelting, banking and financial-services industries have been established, as have oil refineries that largely process Saudi crude. Bahrain is home to numerous multinational firms, and the government actively encourages foreign investment. The U.S. navy’s 5th Fleet, which patrols the Persian Gulf, is based in Bahrain. There is some fishing, and dates, fruits, and vegetables are grown, but the majority of Bahrain’s food is imported.

Investment

Every year Bahrain attracts more than three million visitors, many drawn by the country’s sunny climate, cosmopolitan ambience and traditionally friendly welcome. Tourism currently contributes 11 percent to the country’s GDP. The Economic Development Board (EDB), an autonomous semi-private agency, was established by an Amiri Decree in April 2000. Chaired by H.H. the Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, EDB is the lead agency that plans and executes strategies to boost Bahrain’s economy and to promote the flow of Foreign Direct Investment into Bahrain. This is within the overall goals of further diversifying Bahrain’s economy and ensuring sustainable GDP growth by capitalizing on and further developing Bahrain’s competitive advantages. EDB aims to develop Bahrain as a global hub for business and investment, creating a superior investment environment for international companies serving the global market.

Industry sectors

Traditional industries of Bahrain were building dhows (Arab sailboats), fishing, pearling and the manufacture of reed mats. These activities are now carried out on only a small scale. The country’s oil production has always been small by Middle Eastern standards, and refining crude oil imported from Saudi Arabia has been of much greater importance since the discovery of vast oil fields on the mainland. Although Bahrain’s oil reserves are rapidly depleting and are expected to last only until the early 21st century, its offshore natural gas supplies are somewhat more substantial. In addition to the aluminum smelter operated by ALBA, an aluminum rolling mill was opened in 1986 that manufactures such products as door and window frames. Ship repair is handled at Mina’ Salman, near Manama, and at a large yard operated on Al-‘Azl Island.

Light industries include the production of building materials, furniture, soft drinks, plastics and a wide range of consumer goods. The government has a significant financial stake in all these modern industries, and petroleum and natural gas resources and production are nationalised; but in the 1990s the government began encouraging foreign investment in the sector.

Memberships (13)

United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, Islamic Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, International Monetary Fund, The World Bank Group, United Nations, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, World Trade Organisation, Arab League Documentation and Information Centre, Gulf Co-operation Council

Exchanges (1)

Bahrain Stock Exchange

Event Venues (3)

Bahrain International Exhibition Centre, Bahrain World Trade Centre, Le Royal Meridien

Facilities (6)

Ahlia University, AMA International University of Bahrain, Arab Open University, Kingdom University, Medical University of Bahrain, Royal University for Women RUW

Travel Facilities

Accommodation (13): Adhari Hotel Bahrain, Al Safir Hotel, Delmon International Hotel, Gulf Hotel, Le Royal Meridien Hotel, Mercure Grand Hotel Seef, Moevenpick Hotel Bahrain, Oriental Palace Hotel, Ramada Hotel Bahrain, Ritz Carlton Hotel, Sheraton Bahrain Hotel & Towers, The Regency InterContinental Bahrain, Tylos Hotel Bahrain
Restaurants (9): Al Banco Italian Café, Al Layali, Al Pasha, Al Wasmeyyah, Applebee s, Barrio Fiesta, Blue Elephant, Caesars, Cappuccinos Café
Transport related (3): Bahrain Airport, Bahrain International Airport, Bahrain Port

Shaun Bakamoso

Greetings. I'm Shaun Bakamoso, and I'm thrilled to be your guide through the dynamic world of business news in South Africa here at mbendi.co.za. With a passion for staying informed and a keen interest in the ever-evolving landscape of business, I've dedicated myself to providing you with timely, insightful, and comprehensive coverage of the latest developments impacting the South African economy. bakamoso@gmail.com / Instagram