Bahrain needs oil at $118 a barrel, almost twice the current price, to balance this year's budget
Gleaming skyscrapers rise from reclaimed land in one corner of Bahrain’s capital, a new development that’s a showcase for the government’s effort to lure hi-tech business and move the economy beyond energy dependence.
That’s a widespread aspiration in the Arabian Gulf – and the Manama skyline wouldn’t be out of place among peer cities.
The government is pushing a plan to expand industries from metals to tourism and lure global business. It recognizes that stability “comes through economic prosperity,” Zayed Al Zayani, the minister of industry, commerce, and tourism, said last month in an interview, one of several arranged by the country’s Economic Development Board.
Bahrain wants to more than double the fleet of national carrier Gulf Air over four years, with purchases including 10 new Boeing Dreamliners, said Al Zayani.
Work on the first stage of a new airport terminal should be done within a year, and there’s discussion of a second causeway to neighboring Saudi Arabia, according to Kamel Ahmed, minister of transportation and telecommunications.
Those links may enhance Bahrain’s appeal to business, and also to tourists from the Gulf and beyond, another part of the government’s strategy. With more relaxed rules on alcohol and entertainment, Bahrain attracts large numbers of Saudi visitors who drive across the bridge for weekends.
In a boost for manufacturers, state-controlled Aluminium Bahrain will increase production by about 50 percent to 1.5 million tons in the first quarter of 2019, with half of it going to domestic industries.
The country has succeeded in attracting some investors, helped by living costs that are low by Gulf standards, and relatively limited red tape.
Bahrain currently ranks second behind the UAE among Middle East and North African countries in the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business index.