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Sat 26 Jul 2008 04:00 AM

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Bahrain looks to be role model in development

If there is one GCC country that consistently gets things right in planning its future, it’s Bahrain.

If there is one GCC country that consistently gets it right in planning its future it’s Bahrain.

Can any Arab country boast that 87% of its population is connected to a sewage network? What's more impressive is the fact that the Bahrain government recognises and develops strategic plans to ensure that infrastructure -- long neglected by developers even in Western countries - must keep pace with property development.

The government's Ministry of Works anticipates its entire infrastructure to be in place by 2021.

Perhaps Bahrain was best known as singer Michael Jackson's home for a while, but it has quickly become the Little Engine That Could.

A sleepy country that quietly goes about its business attracting marquee developers with the freest economy in the Middle East and North Africa, not to mention ranking 19th globally. Its liberal tax and banking laws has attracted foreign investors, which is vital to a robust economy.

What Bahrain has already learned and other Arab countries are picking up on is that whether oil reserves diminish or developed nations find alternative fuels the need to diversify the economy is critical to remaining competitive on a global scale.

Saudi Arabia has seen the light with its construction of top-flight universities and its six economic cities. Dubai sees it through tourism dollars. Oman sees its future in retaining its cultural identity through thoughtful architectural planning.

Bahrain's land use plan that charts development over the next 22 years gives commercial and residential investors the security to put up money on construction projects. This paves the way for foreign workers to establish residences on a permanent basis.

While a stable foreign workforce is important to Bahrain's economy, the country benefits tremendously from its proximity to Saudi Arabia.

The two are connected by the popular and well-travelled King Fahd Causeway. The geography allows expats to work in the kingdom's Eastern Province but live in the much less restrictive Bahrain. Both countries come out winners.

Saudi Arabia has a stable workforce served by Bahrain, while Bahrain receives the benefit of foreign land investments.

If inflation can be kept in check and the saber-rattling among the talking heads in Iran, Israel and the United States comes to an end, then Bahrain's growth will flourish, making it a model for the rest of the region to follow.

Rob Wagner is the editor of Construction Week.

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