Bahrain is the ideal base for investment in professional services in the Middle East and, more specifically, within the GCC market. Bahrain is committed to providing business opportunities for global professional and industrial services firms that cater for the GCC’s rapidly developing needs. Furthermore, we have created a highly attractive business environment where firms like yours can flourish.
This commitment is built on significant progress in reform and development. Recent programmes have produced, for example, the region’s most skilled workforce, advanced infrastructure development and industry diversification, a trusted and transparent legal and regulatory environment, and the most liberal business environment. A combination of factors makes Bahrain a compelling proposition for global organisations – not least our openness:
An attractive business environment:
Working in Bahrain allows for 100% foreign ownership of business assets and real estate. This enables free cross border movement of capital, profits and dividends. Such freedom is matched by having no corporate or personal taxes, very few indirect taxes and competitive costs. And Bahrain is known for being easy to do business with: in the World Bank’s 2014 Doing Business survey, the Kingdom was ranked 46th globally1.
Secure and stable:
As the Gulf’s financial capital for over 40 years, Bahrain offers proven, unparalleled stability. Over this period, we have developed a mature legal framework and internationally-compliant practices. We treat domestic and international companies equally and our free-convertible currency is pegged to the US Dollar.
Bahrain’s strategic location in the Middle East and proximity to Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC gives you quick, convenient access to key regional markets in the MENA region. Within the Kingdom, we offer a world-class telecommunications infrastructure, enabling you to operate multiple premises simply and dependably.
In terms of trade, we have 64 bilateral agreements and 32 MoUs (Memoranda of Understanding) on economic, trade and technical cooperation2, together with the avoidance of double taxation. In particular, our free trade agreement with the USA allows for ready movement of goods and services. These agreements work: in 2013, net services exports, for example, increased by no less than 6%3.
A high quality of living:
You and your employees can enjoy an excellent standard of living in Bahrain. As well as taking advantage of superb facilities, you will benefit from having no personal taxes and relatively low costs – including rents, health services and education4. Moreover, you will feel genuinely at home: Bahrainis are well-known for their friendliness and have been living and working with expatriates and their families for many decades.
The Middle East’s freest economy:
Bahrain has become the Gulf’s financial capital and a regional leader in economic freedom through its dedication to structural reform and openness to global commerce. These qualities were recognised in the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom, in which Bahrain scored 75.1 out of 100, making its economy the 13th freest in the world (between the US and UK) and first among 15 countries in the Middle East and North Africa5. The Economic Freedom of the World: 2013 Annual Report rated Bahrain as the world’s eighth most economically-free country6.
Bahrain’s dynamism and ambition are being noticed beyond the immediate region. “Succeeding in a Changing World”, a KPMG survey of 1,500 executives across 22 European, Middle Eastern and African countries, notes that diversification is a central plank of Bahrain’s 2030 economic strategy – moving to a broad globally competitive economy from a high dependence on hydrocarbon exports.
The government is shaping and supporting this through improved access for SMEs to capital and technical expertise, and it is being driven by the private sector with increased output in industries such as tourism, financial services, manufacturing and logistics7.
Extremely cost effective:
There is a powerful financial case for establishing a professional services business in Bahrain. A further KPMG report concludes that Bahrain offers among the lowest costs of operating a business in the GCC; the average cost to hire an employee, whether a Bahraini national or an expatriate, is significantly lower than across the region8.
Financially robust, liberal and accessible:
Your corporate clients will welcome Bahrain’s opportunities and stability as the region’s longest established financial services centre. The WEF’s Financial Development Report ranked Bahrain 25th out of 62 surveyed countries9. The report noted a high rate of financial access (7th), strong business environment (16th) and a high degree of financial sector liberalisation (15th). In a further report, Bahrain ranked 1st overall for banking system stability and very highly (2nd) in terms of tax10.
A superb employment environment:
Bahrainis are widely known as among the Gulf’s most educated and skilled. Companies coming to Bahrain find they can recruit locally, which keeps costs down and employee retention up. Aon Hewitt, a global leader in risk assessment and evaluation, ranks Manama one of the world’s top 60 low-risk cities in its 2013 People Risk Index. This uses 30 critical factors to gauge the recruitment, employment and relocation risks that organisations face across 138 cities. In fact, Bahrain ranks more highly than many of the world’s leading business centres including Beijing, Shanghai, Kuala Lumpur, Rome and Moscow11.
Operating in Bahrain will help enhance your standing in global professional services. In the World Economic Forum’s 2014-2015 Global Competitiveness Report, Bahrain today ranks the world’s 44th most competitive country.
Very high human development:
In Bahrain we place huge emphasis on improving the welfare of our whole population. This will deliver long-term benefits and opportunities for your clients. We are now among the world’s ‘Very High Human Development’ countries, according to the UNDP’s 2014 Human Development Report. The report examines the shift in global dynamics driven by the fast-rising new powers of the developing world and its continuing implications for human development Between 1980 and 2012, Bahrain’s HDI rose by 1% annually – above the regional average – ranking the country 48 out of 187 countries. Over the same period, the HDI of Arab States as a whole increased from 0.443 to 0.65212.
A growing workforce:
According to the Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA), by the end of Q3 2013 total foreign employment in the Kingdom increased to 515,237, representing annual growth of 7.1%. Rising inward investment (up by 12% 2012-13) is expected to create a further 800 jobs over a range of sectors over three years13.
Global professional services firms active in Bahrain include:
||Ernst & Young|
||McKinsey & Company|
|BDO Jawad Habib
||Hill & Knowlton|
|Charles River Associates International
||Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer|
||Ideal Management Consulting|
|MCG Consultancy Services
||DRAM Consultancy Group|
||Ogilvy & Mather|
1World Bank Group, Doing Business 2014
2Kingdom of Bahrain, Ministry of Finance website
3Bahrain Economic Quarterly, 2014
4KPMG, Business Arabia, 2013
5Heritage Foundation, 2014 Index of Economic Freedom
6Fraser Institute, Economic Freedom Network
7KPMG, Succeeding in a Changing World
8KPMG, Cost of Doing Business in Bahrain
9World Economic Forum, Financial Development Report 2012
10World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2014-2015
11Aon Hewitt, 2013 People Risk Index
12United Nations Development Programme, Human Development Report 2013
13Bahrain Economic Development Board, Bahrain Economic Quarterly, June 2014