Al Zayani: optimistic

Al Zayani: optimistic

Growth prospects looking positive

The kingdom’s prospects remain bright powered by projects worth $32 billion and regulatory reform

January 2018

Bahrain is optimistic about economic growth in the New Year, despite global headwinds, Industry, Commerce and Tourism Minister Zayed Al Zayani told the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.

According to him the government reforms started in 2015 have started to pay off.

“Bahrain’s prospects remain bright powered by tourism, projects worth $32 billion and regulatory reform,’ he added.

Agreeing with Bahrain Economic Development Board’s growth forecast of 2.5 to 3 per cent for the national gross domestic product (GDP) next year, Al Zayani said commercial and investment activity continues to be a key driver of the national economy.

Policies and strategies of the government are aimed at sustaining the momentum, he said, during a press conference at the ministry’s offices to review key performance indicators for 2017.

Sharing highlights, the minister said tourism spending in Bahrain was more than BD900 million ($2.393 billion) this year with increasing number of visitors taking advantage of hospitality facilities.

The total capital invested by registered businesses in Bahrain reached BD20.5 billion as of the third quarter this year, with BD116.2 million ($309 million) invested this year alone.

The minister said 500 virtual commercial registrations also known as Sijili have already been issued since they were launched at the end of last year. He also revealed that a new small and medium enterprise (SME) strategy that will boost entrepreneurship and start-ups has been drafted and is up for review by the Crown Prince.

Fifteen new laws and amendments are also in the offing which will make Bahrain more investor-friendly, allow newer innovative businesses, create more jobs, and better protect investors, Al Zayani said.

Alba’s Line 6 Expansion Project, having a capital expenditure of $3 billion, will be a game-changer for Bahrain’s industrial sector when it begins producing aluminium in January 2019, Al Zayani said.

One of the largest brownfield developments in the region, the project will boost the smelter’s annual production by 540,000 tonnes, bringing its total production capacity to 1.5 million tonnes per year.

The minister said the year so far saw many positive developments in the sectors of commerce and industry with 7,002 new commercial companies, 9,411 new individual institutions and 500 Sijili licences being issued.

In terms of foreign trade, the number of applications for trademarks was 7,639 in 2017 compared with 7,464 in 2016, while the number of patents submitted this year was 396 compared with 255 patents entered in 2016.

As for the achievements of the industrial sector, Al Zayani said that 2017 witnessed the implementation of a new mechanism to evaluate the applications to not exceed 18 working days, in addition to the allocation of 36 industrial plots in industrial areas, compared with 23 industrial plots in 2016.

The minister revealed that 89 per cent of industrial government plots have already been leased to investors.

“We have 11 per cent available but of those 7 per cent are in the process of being taken, so we are left with no stock for any industries coming here unless they have their own property,” he said.

“More spaces will be available in early 2019 when the new industrial area in east Sitra is ready and then we will restart accepting offers.

“It is very difficult to have an industrial area in the furthest point of the Southern Governorate because there is no infrastructure and the cost of having it is very high.

“Meanwhile, light industries are planned for the new Northern Town and not heavy industries.”

According to him, 15 new laws and amendments are also in the offing which will make Bahrain more investor-friendly, allow newer innovative businesses, create more jobs, and better protect investors.

They include a draft amendment to the articles of the Companies Law for protection of the rights of minority shareholders, a new bankruptcy law, a draft amendment of the auditors’ law, a new competition law, the Corporate Governance Charter, draft law on bookkeeping activity, rules on organising professional offices, rules on commercial advertisement boards, executive regulations of standards and standards law, adoption of technical regulations on metrology and standardisation, rules on incubators and business accelerators, resolution stipulating rules on combating money-laundering and terrorism financing, rules on trademarks, and a draft resolution amending some provisions of the Implementing Regulations of the Law Decree No 28 of 1999 on the establishment and organisation of industrial zones.

“The amendments will give protection to small investors, which are currently not specified in law,” said  Al Zayani.

“This will hopefully reflect positively on Bahrain’s ranking by international agencies and also encourage small investors to enter the market with investments considering the protection they would get.

“We are also seeking to introduce new types of companies to Bahrain using formats like joint ventures, which can potentially be formed with a new portfolio without the merger of the names of companies forming it or just confining it to their original capital or finances,” he said.

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