BAHRAIN has long been an important trading nerve in the region – a trading port or financial hub. Therefore, it can be described as the pioneer in offshore banking which it initiated decades ago. This means it is the maker of investment opportunities in the Middle East. In any project, there is a lucrative investment as long as the right marketing policy, which improves the process of attracting investments, is utilized.
The metro project that will start next year is one of the tenders floated to improve infrastructure. It is known globally that such a project is implemented by private companies through the BOT (build-operate-transfer) system, while the country will monitor and supervise it. This is the way infrastructure work is carried out in advanced countries by private companies through long-term contracts.
In the Arab world, specifically the Arabian Gulf, it is a norm for the government to execute all projects; starting from roads to housing and others. This has become a huge impediment to improvement of the private sector which depends on ready-made projects handed over by the government. This practice contributes to reverse innovation in such a vital sector that is regarded as the nerve of the economy in every country; in addition to being a major social security support because it reduces arbitrary employment pressure on State institutions and phases out underemployment.
In Bahrain, several tenders have been floated as part of ‘Bahrain Vision 2030’ which is based on three basic principles – sustainability, competitiveness and fairness. These projects need a marketing policy in line with what is constant in the plan to enhance sustainability through consistent human development. This is in addition to building self-help for citizens in a way that is appropriate for competitiveness – the backbone of innovation and creativity in every society. Fairness, the third pillar of the royal vision laid down after four years of consistent processes between the public and private sectors, should be guaranteed.
Housing, roads and other infrastructure works are among the projects which the country can depend on to move the wheels of production. In this context, it is possible to learn from the experiences of some countries that engaged international foreign companies to build residential cities with government supervision and minor contribution in terms of infrastructure, loan guarantee and interest; while a long-term housing mortgage is put in place.
This is the practice in Morocco where foreign and Arab companies, some of which are Saudi companies, construct houses for low income earners with private funding and support from the government. This practice eased the financial burden of the government and guaranteed quick implementation of projects, contrary to some Gulf countries which still rely on the direct execution method.
All these massive projects in Bahrain can be implemented quickly through the creation of innovative marketing abilities, reduction of bureaucracy, quick executive decision and easing works for the private sector. This will generate more job opportunities for citizens on one hand, and promote Bahrain as a historical financial hub in the Middle East on the other hand. It is possible because 100 banks are operating in the country – 46 of which are offshore banks, in addition to being a recreational and touristic destination in the Gulf. This amounts to availability of huge investment opportunities, but it still needs creative marketing and flexibility in the flow of goods and entry of people.
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times