BCCI upbeat on business recovery in Bahrain

Business community is upbeat about the speedy recovery after a lull of sluggish business activity due to unfortunate events of protests in the months of February and March.

The leaders of business community on Friday said that they were confident of recovery of financial sector and the other business sectors in the Kingdom.

Dr Esam Abdulla Fakhro, Chairman of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry termed the optimism about recovery and confidence of business leaders a result of the concerted efforts of the Government and the private sector to develop a blue print for bringing confidence back.

“The Kingdom has to work “better than before” to reinforce confidence among individuals and investors that it’s still a Business Friendly country,” Dr Esam added.

This daunting task especially after the political unrest has been taken up by members of the Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), who are holding string of meetings right from corporate to grass root level traders.
“We have to get back better than before to build the confidence among our regional and international partners after this crisis. This is the time for all of us to work for the benefit of the country and its people,” said BCCI board member, Abdul Hameed Al Kooheji.

Al Kooheji said they formed a first of its kind think- tank comprising of BCCI members to set up mechanisms to revive the economy after two months of unrest.
“This think-tank was formed last month after the country went through unfortunate crisis that affected our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and resulted in loss of hundreds of millions of dollars. This crisis was a wakeup call for the business fraternity of the whole country as peace and stability is the key for businesses to flourish anywhere,” said Kooheji, who is heading the think tank.
BCCI members have started to meet with representatives from hospitality and retail businesses, who they say are the worst affected.
“Hotel occupancy was hit badly during the past few months as people preferred to hold meetings in Dubai or other place rather than coming to Bahrain. We saw there was liquidity present in the market especially in the Gulf region, but people had no confidence to invest.
“This think tank would meet all businessmen and understand their needs to revive the market. We are definitely picking up and this is our country’s loss which we should collectively work together to overcome,” he said.
Bahraini businessman, Abdul Hakim Al Shammary said that unfortunate events were a time for individuals to evaluate their level of participation in developing the economy of the Kingdom.
“I personally feel that we need to focus heavily on food sector as this is an effective proposition for the country and citizens. Due to unhealthy competition several such businesses shifted their base and we need to involve to slowly developing this sector with government support.”

Al Shammary said market was dynamic and requires participating from all stake holders, who should work for national interest.

“The public is smart and they know who real practical leaders are contributing to the country. We should change our attitude and aim for innovation in business especially small scale and medium enterprises. The current situation demands we remove all obstacles and be responsible to work for national rather than personal interests,” said Al Shammary

According to reports, the tourism industry lost over $500 million over February and March especially with the cancellation of the 2011 Gulf Air Formula One Bahrain Grand Prix.
The Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) last month said that demand of Bahrain’s sovereign debt remained strong during the first quarter of 2011.
Between January and the end of March 2011, the CBB issued 3 month Treasury Bills at an average coverage of 283%, and 6 month Bills an average coverage of 340%. Demand for Shariah-compliant securities was even stronger with the coverage of both 3 and 6 month instruments exceeding 500%.
The CBB was able to issue 12 month Government Treasury Bills at coverage of 211%, and recently successfully issued a 5 year maturity Islamic Leasing Sukuk in the local market with a value of $530 million and a rate of return of 5.5%.
” The strong domestic demand for Kingdom of Bahrain sovereign debt is testament both to the depth and liquidity of our local markets as well as market participants’ confidence in the Kingdom’s economic management,” Shaikh Salman bin Isa Al Khalifa Executive Director of Banking Operations at CBB said, while commenting on the demand on the sovereign debt.

Bahrain has developed a National Economic Strategy (NES) which sets out goals to be achieved by 2014 by way of six year strategic plans towards implementing and achieving the Economic Vision for Bahrain 2030. The Vision 2030 aims to boost the Bahraini economy by generating jobs for Bahrainis and improve skills for job seekers, compete in the global market by encouraging innovation and developing new and growth sectors and tap potential growth opportunities as GCC continues to develop.
Economic Development Board(EDB) Chief Executive, Shaikh Mohammed bin Isa Al Khalifa said that they were working on preparing a report which will identify the sectors that have been affected during the unrest.
He explained they would prepare a report that will take into consideration the new Government budget, the strategies Bahrain will follow to maximise the benefits from the allocated fund of $10 billion by the Gulf countries over the next 10 years as part of the Gulf Development Program, as well as the possible new investment projects in Bahrain during the current year.

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