What is Bahrain doing to ensure sustainable growth?
Newly discovered oil and gas reserves announced by Bahrain, in April this year, open massive economic opportunities for the kingdom at a challenging time in the region. Simon Galpin of the Bahrain Economic Development Board detected an immediate “boost in confidence” both among domestic consumers and would-be foreign investors.
Interestingly, not only oil and gas industry but also Bahrain is experiencing a turnaround in various unconventional industries including aviation, agriculture and real estate.
Real estate on high
In a recent report on Bahrain’s property market, Business Monitor International (BMI) forecast steady growth in 2018.
“Government efforts to diversify the economy away from hydrocarbons have facilitated…new industrial zones that incorporate excellent amenities and access to key trade routes, part of a larger drive to position Bahrain as a regional hub for manufacturing and logistics,” said BMI. This “has fostered a rise in demand for bespoke industrial facilities from manufacturing and logistics tenants…as investment pours into developing a suitable environment.”
BMI suggested storage space would be in particular demand as exports climb 5.6 percent in 2018 to $30.9 billion and imports rise 6.5 percent to $24.3 billion. Space near major infrastructure development projects, such as the ALBA expansion and the new liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal (4km offshore from Khalifa Bin Salman port) would, said BMI, “witness particularly good levels of demand”.
As part of the $32 billion investment plan, real estate is benefitting from $2.4 billion. In the last five years, the kingdom has developed public-private partnerships for housing projects, with 4,000 new units completed in the last two years. Social housing is included in the ambitious Diyar Al Muharraq, a project underway on 12 islands, spread over 12 sq-km off the coast of Muharraq, with the capacity to accommodate over 100,000 people.
Bahrain International Airport is undergoing a $1.1 billion redevelopment designed to boost annual passenger capacity from 9 million to 14 million by 2020. The Swiss engineering group Cavotec (in April) announced an $8 million contract to design, supply and install new aircraft ground cooling systems — designed to both improve passenger comfort and operational efficiency. But just as important for transport links are plans for a second causeway, parallel to the existing King Fahd highway, to connect Bahrain with Saudi’s Eastern Province, whose population is five times Bahrain’s resident population.
Focus on agriculture
Rarely in the news is Bahraini agriculture but recently it attracted much attention. Prasad Thenkabail, a NASA US Geological Survey Scientist, told a conference in April at the Arabian Gulf University in Manama that the current 7.8 percent of geographical area used for agriculture should be increased to 20 percent within a decade.
While the current level, of geographical area under agriculture, is higher than a five percent GCC average, but still many steps could be taken in Bahrain to enhance the agriculture infrastructure to contribute in solving the food deficit situation in some parts of the Arab region.