By Bernd Debusmann Jr
To date, there have been over 25,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Bahrain
It may be too early to predict when Bahrain’s economy will fully recover from the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, but its handling of the crisis has allowed it to better weather the storm compared to many other countries, according to National Bank of Bahrain CEO Jean Christophe Durand.
In an interview with Arabian Business, Durand said Bahrain’s complete economic recovery was “more of a medical question.”
He said: “I think the crisis has been very well managed so far. What we’ve seen, unlike other countries, was that there was no 100 percent lockdown….I would expect a gradual re-opening. It all depends on statistics, but certain sectors are slowly starting to pick up.”
In mid-June, Bahraini authorities announced that $470.7m will be injected into the country’s budget this year in order to deal with emergency expenses incurred as a result of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.
Additionally, the government approved exemptions for state-owned commercial outlets from paying rent for three months.
“There are some sectors which are more affected than others, like hospitality, tourism and retail to a certain extent. We are at a stage where benefits that have been granted by the government are helping. Utility bills and wages are paid by the government.
“It’s a good transition during the crisis to ensure that the economy can sustain itself. Slowly the economy is reviving. August and September will be very important moments," Durand said.
In the case of the state-backed NBB, much of its focus during the months of the pandemic has been on supporting SMEs, which Durand said is the “backbone” of Bahrain’s economy.
“In these troubled times, they need our support more than in normal times,” he said. “It’s not only postponing loans. It’s about helping them restructure their facilities and manage their risk.”
To date, there have been over 25,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Bahrain, including 78 deaths and 19,781 recoveries. Approximately 5,400 cases remain active.