Bahrain witnesses population explosion

POPULATION EXPLOSION: Bahrain's population has crossed the one million mark. (Getty Images)

POPULATION EXPLOSION: Bahrain's population has crossed the one million mark. (Getty Images)

Bahrain's population grew almost 41% and crossed one million people last year as the foreign population nearly doubled over 2006, the Gulf Arab state's central bank said on Wednesday.

The population of the smallest Gulf Arab economy was 1.05 million people at the end of December, compared with 742,560 a year earlier, the Central Bank of Bahrain said in a statement on its website.

The non-Bahraini population jumped 82.5% to 517,368 people, nearly half of the total population, the data showed.

A leading MP earlier this month accused the government of secretly nationalising expatriates and covering up Bahrain's soaring population for political reasons after it was revealed the number of people living in the kingdom had passed the one million mark.

Bahrain's population is made up of majority Shi'ite Muslims, but the kingdom is ruled by a Sunni dynasty. The government has been accused in the past of naturalising Sunni Muslims in an effort to change the demography.

Sheikh Ali Salman, chairman of the Al Wefaq parliamentary bloc, said Bahrain's local population should be 447,531 today, given the population's annual growth rate of 2.7%. "We are shocked to see it at 529,446," Salman said during a parliamentary session.

"This shows that the increase, which happened suddenly in the last years, is the result of criminal political naturalisation," he added.

Oil producers in the world's largest oil-exporting region are facing accelerating inflation as their economies surge on a near five-fold rise in oil prices since 2002, which is fuelling population growth.

Annual inflation in Bahrain hit 4.1% in December spurred by housing and food costs, data showed last month. Inflation in Bahrain was 2.05% in 2006.

Bahrain could pass a law preventing foreigners from owning properties in the country in order to curb pressures on real estate prices, a member of parliament was quoted as saying by UAE daily Khaleej Times in December.

The kingdom's labour minister was also the author of a controversial plan to impose a residency cap on how long foreign workers can live in the Gulf. The plan was submitted for approval at the GCC summit in December, but a final decision has been deferred until the next summit at the end of this year in Muscat.

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