By Gavin Gibbon
Nass told ABIC event in Manama that oil has been "a blessing" and "a curse" for Bahrain
The chairman of Bahrain Chamber of Commerce and Industry (BCCI), Sameer Nass, has said the oil boom in the kingdom created a “dependent people”.
Nass described the discovery of oil in the 1930s as “a blessing for us, but at the same time it’s a curse”.
Addressing the Arab Businessmen and Investors Conference (ABIC), Nass said: “We have created a dependent people. I think we should shake the dust off our bodies. We have powerful people. We have intellectual people and they can make a difference.
“This is an opportunity for our people to change themselves and depend on themselves rather than the oil.”
According to new research from Standard Chartered Bahrain is a leader in terms of improving diversification, indicating that the country’s long-term efforts to move its economy away from a reliance on oil and develop its manufacturing, finance and services sectors
As a result of its diversification programme, non-oil sectors in the kingdom account for 80 percent of the economy and grew 4.3 percent in 2018.
The last 12 months has also been a transitional time for the BCCI as it too suffered from an over-reliance on oil, according to board member Sonya Janahi, who was the driving force behind the 18th edition of the ABIC this week.
She told Arabian Business: “They (BCCI) didn’t realise that one day the day would come when the value of oil would be as low as it is today and we need to, as an economy, focus on the non-oil sectors more than the oil sectors.
“That was not taken into perspective, everything is nice, everything is going well, there is oil, the Bahrain oil is at its peak.
“I don’t think they had more of a long-term vision, anticipating what might happen in the future with the oil prices and this was the main problem.”
The BCCI, at over 80 years old, was behind the creation of the National Bank of Bahrain, the first hotel on the island, the Gulf Hotel; and the first joint bank between Bahrain and Kuwait.
However, Janahi admitted the organisation had become a “sleeping giant” over the last 40 years.
She added: “Today, as a new board, we understand the problems that are happening globally and we do want our economy to be non-oil 100%, we don’t want an economy that’s focused on oil.
“We want to be a dynamic economy that is focusing on education, focusing on training, focusing on development. And when I speak about education, not just school education, but we need vocational training.
“We have a creative people, we need to ensure we focus on them and expand their knowledge and training skills and support them all the way in their entrepreneurship.”