LONDON: With the Kingdom of Bahrain is embarking on major infrastructure development projects with total investments of $32billion in next four years, there is a rare window of investment opportunity for the UK investors.
Zayed Al Zayani, the Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism while addressing the 1st UK-GCC Public Private Partnership Conference said the Kingdom offers attractive investment climate including the tax-free environment, skilled local labor force, competitive wages, low operating cost, free movement of capital and repatriation of profits.
The Kingdom of Bahrain was represented by Minister Alzayani at the 1st UK-GCC Public Private Partnership Conference, which took place at Lancaster House in London.
Major reforms, the Minister said, to attract more investments include restricting only 2% of business activities are restricted for Bahrainis; deregulation of registration requirements such as minimum capitals and personal qualifications and the commercial registration issuance record that stands at 93 seconds.
“The potential is massive in other fields such as tourism, health services, education services, ICT, Logistics, innovation skills development and training, to name but a few. There are committed projects in these fields as well as others in Bahrain totaling $32 billion planned for the next four years and we invite you to play a leading role in their development.”
The Minister expressed his appreciation to the Secretariat General of the Gulf Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf and to the Department for International Trade of the UK for organizing the event, which is brainchild of the GCC-UK summit that took place along the side the 37th GCC summit in Bahrain last December. A few months ago, witnessed a clear commitment from the leaders of our countries towards greater cooperation in the fields of policy, defence, security, trade, human capital development and networking. The aim is to develop a collective and cohesive approach to regional issues to advance our shared interest in peace, stability and prosperity. There is a firm an unwavering commitment for political leadership on both ends to these objectives and today gathering, will undoubtedly complement and support all initiative undertaken by Governments of the GCC states and UK’s Government to develop and enhance the relations.
The Minister noted that the GCC and the UK have a long-standing history. Bahrain celebrated bicentennial relations with the UK in 2016, however, trade between our two nations actually started 200 years prior with the establishment of East India Company in Bahrain back in 1616.
“GCC countries are going through a major transformation process that would reshape their future for many generations to come. While the GCC contends with challenges of diversification from oil and creation of more jobs for its young and growing population, the UK embarks on a new era outside of the EU.”
“Trade between GCC and UK, exceeding £30 billion, is today greater than that between UK and India. Investments between GCC and UK are at their highest levels ever and we look forward to seeing more cross investments and joint ventures especially amongst the private sector. The time is right for the private sector to step up and assume their rightful role of being the main driver in the economy.”
The World Bank has ranked all GCC countries within the top ten in the MENA region in ease of doing business. Furthermore, the GCC is hopeful, to be one of the first to sign an FTA with UK, yet we pray that the negotiations do not take us the 14 years it is taking with the EU.
“GCC markets saw major developments in the public private partnership (PPP) due to structural changes undertaken by GCC governments to diversify their economies away from oil as well as empowering the private sector to be the driving force of economic growth while limiting the governments’ roles to being a regulator and a facilitator.”
There are a number of existing PPP projects in Bahrain in the fields of petroleum sector, electricity generation and affordable public housing. Most recent examples are the privatization of public transport with UK’s National Express and the Bahrain’s Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunication and the redevelopment of the old souq in Manama between Hank Dittmar and BTEA.
The conference started by a speech delivered by Rt Hon Dr. Liam Fox MP, Secretary of State for International Trade about unlocking the full potential of the UK-GCC trade and investment relationship, followed a speech by Secretary General of GCC Dr. Abdullatif Alzayani on the Strategic Partnership and Economic Dimension.
Omani Minister of Commerce and Industry Dr. Ali Bin Masoud Alsunaidy delivered a speech on opportunities of Cooperation between the GCC member states and the United Kingdom.
It should be noted that the UK-GCC Public Private Partnership Conference included mix of plenary and panel and which aims to support GCC States national transformation and economic diversification plans through demonstration of Public Private Partnership’s model and lesson learning, Demonstrate and promote the UK’s Public Private Partnership model, showcasing the UK’s expertise in this area, present the UK’s wider offer of finance partnership wins through showcasing UKEF, banking partnerships, and provide an exclusive opportunity for business leaders and senior UK and Gulf State Ministers to network and promote current investment and trade opportunities.