The island nation sees itself as Hong Kong to Saudi's China
Bahrain believes it can continue to attract capital inflows despite the growing appeal of Saudi Arabia’s 2030 Vision and associated economic and social reforms. That’s the claim of Khalid Al Rumaihi, chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board.
Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davis, the former investment banker stated that Bahrain’s role in the GCC is “not well understood” and that there is more than enough room for several hubs in the region, particularly as intra-GCC trade grows. Its value had already grown from $15 billion in 2002 to more than $120 billion today, “and we think it can get to $500 billion,” he added.
Although Saudi is opening itself up to more investment, Bahrain is developing five key pillars that will also attract foreign investors: logistics, light manufacturing, financial services/fintech, digital technology and tourism – which is already buoyed by monthly visitor numbers that often exceed its 1.5 million population.
Bahrain is currently in the middle of an ambitious $32 billion infrastructure programme, which includes a number of new hotels, the expansion of the airport, a new causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, a raft of new malls and, perhaps most importantly, the launch of Fintech Bay, a new facility designed to be the largest of its type in the MENA region.
Of this figure, $7.5 billion has come from the Gulf Fund, set up in 2011. Despite regional tension, Al Rumaihi believes that the Gulf is a region that is only growing stronger. “The GCC is here to stay, despite political issues at the moment,” he said. “I could even see it getting bigger.”