Bahrain is going through a remarkable phase of economic growth, thanks to the dynamic leadership of His Majesty King Hamad, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr. Hassan Fakhro said.
He was speaking at the Ambassador's Club luncheon hosted by British envoy Iain Lindsay in the presence of leading businessmen from major UK companies.
Dr Fakhro highlighted incremental increase in the number of industries and business start-ups, both in the commercial as well as the manufacturing space.
In terms of the banking sector, in particular Islamic banking, he said Bahrain and the UK are boosting co-operation through an education and skills program and the establishment of a working group devoted to the development of Islamic finance-driven trade and investment between the two countries, a business which is currently growing 50 per cent faster than conventional banking and is worth £1.3 trillion, which accounts for more than 25pc of banking in the Gulf.
'His Majesty and Prime Minister David Cameron have expressed their mutual desire to expand the economic and trade relationship between our two countries, and to explore all possibilities to make the business environment as conducive as possible to British companies in terms of both commercial regulations as well as the available infrastructure,' Dr Fakhro said.
'There are many commercial and manufacturing opportunities in Bahrain, and of course the wider $2trn Mena region, which we believe British companies, could be well set to take advantage of, from a base in Bahrain.
'Infrastructure projects and the GCC development fund, providing Bahrain with $10 billion over 10 years, will assist us in fast-tracking the expansion of infrastructure and other facilities and services,' he said.
'Bahrain values its relationship with the UK very highly '“ we have a long history of friendship, in fact not far short of two centuries, and throughout the period of our early relationship Bahrain was benefiting from the British administrative experience.
'What we have today is a robust and flexible system '“robust in its adherence to the rule of law, flexible through its practical application and mechanisms to amend laws and regulations to suit the changing requirements of global business,' he said.
Dr Fakhro said that it is true to say that the relationship between Bahrain and the UK flourished in the 19th and 20th centuries.
'We are determined that the future will bring us even closer,' he said.
'We have been, and in fact still are, the first in many areas, thanks to the visionary leadership of His Majesty,' Dr Fakhro said.
'We have the most advanced political system in the region, highlighted by free elections; the highest literacy rate in the region, we were ranked first in the Arab World in the field of primary education; we are ranked 39th internationally and third amongst Arab countries in terms of human development; the oldest and the most developed legal system; the highest percentage of women engaged in both the political and economic sectors; we have one of the lowest inflation rate in the region; the lowest business costs, one of the highest business-friendly ratings in the world; an unemployment rate at less than 5pc, a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of around $28,000, and real GDP growth reached a five-year high in 2013 of 5.3pc.'
Bahrain is going through a phase of remarkable economic progress and can only get stronger when the country becomes connected to the other GCC countries as a result of the ambitious plan to create a railway linking all the states, he said.
'Investments in Bahrain, at the Salman Industrial City, and indeed across the country are undergoing a remarkable surge, which is due in no small measure to His Majesty's tireless efforts on the diplomatic front, and the inspiration which he gives to his people and government.'
Still very much on the cards, but at the discussion stage, is our proposed new game-changing mega project in the shape of a new Economic City, which he said would create a wide spectrum of business opportunities.
Dr Fakhro also spoke about the almost completed business licenses integrated system by which companies can be registered online in record time.
Gulf Daily News