The Gulf region is undergoing an exciting economic transformation characterized by a period of low oil prices followed by unprecedented reform designed to drive investment and private sector-led development.

As governments across the Middle East turn towards the private sector as the primary engine of sustainable economic growth, Bahrain hosted Gateway Gulf – Bahrain 2018.

Under the patronage of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa Crown Prince and Chairman of the Bahrain Economic Development Board, Gateway Gulf –2018 was held at Four Seasons, Manama, Bahrain from 8-10 May 2018, bringing together 500+ global investors and CEOs from a variety of sectors, including oil and gas, real estate, tourism, housing, power, water, transport, public works and manufacturing.

GCC Investment Opportunities

His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Chairman of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), welcomed over five hundred international investors and business leaders to Bahrain to
explore how to unlock opportunities across the GCC.

HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa emphasises that the spirit of the forum is to establish new ways to join together to drive regional and global growth.

HRH the  Crown Prince highlighted the regional opportunities available to investors, including the plethora of projects to be showcased during the forum, noting that these opportunities reflect Bahrain’s wider strategy to increase the role of the private sector in driving economic development.

HRH the Deputy King spoke of the importance of partnerships across all government bodies in Bahrain, noting that ‘Team Bahrain’ has a shared vision
to deliver opportunities for the
Kingdom’s citizens.

Glimpse of Investment Opportunities

Over the course of the two days, investment opportunities worth $26 billion showcased, with the first day focusing on new developments in the oil and gas, power and energy, and real estate and tourism sectors. Meanwhile plenary sessions explored the economic transformation taking place across the GCC powering a paradigm shift toward private-sector driven growth.

Speaking at the conference, Jassim Alsiddiqi, Chief Executive Officer, ADFG, said: “We see tremendous opportunity in the coming years. The best risk / reward opportunity is here in the GCC. In our mind, political and economic risk in the GCC is much smaller than in the rest of the world. The margins are superior here compared globally.”

The forum attracted a significant delegation from China to explore opportunities being created in line with the region’s strategic position on the Belt and Road initiative. Since 2014, Arab countries are estimated to have signed more than $50 billion in contracts with China. As an established gateway to the region, Bahrain is home to the regional bases of leading Chinese corporations including Huawei, Chinamex, CIMC and Bank of China.

 HE Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the EDB, speaking on the second panel of the day about the key to attracting the right forms of FDI into the region, commented: “The government and the private sector need to work together to create solutions and unlock opportunities in the region. That means that government needs to change its approach, it needs to collaborate and be agile in order to respond to the changing opportunities being created. This is what we call our ‘Team Bahrain’ approach.”

During the conference, H.E Dr. Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza, the Minister of Electricity and Water Authority announced that the second phase of the Al Dur 2 Independent Water and Power Project will commence operations in early June 2020, in cooperation with the private sector. After the conclusion of the second phase, production is set to reach a total of 5,421 MW and 229 million imperial gallons per day, representing a 38% uplift in current electricity production capacity and almost 28% increase in current water production capacity.

The Kingdom’s Minister of Housing, H.E. Eng. Basim bin Yaqoob Al Hamer, stressed the importance of partnership with the private sector in developing the housing sector in Bahrain and in providing decent housing for Bahraini citizens. Showcasing the successes of the programme, he praised the ability of the partnership to meet housing demands and the positive secondary effect this has on a number of additional sectors across the economy, such as contracting, engineering, banking, finance and retail.

Solutions and Issues in the GCC Economy

Speaking on the changing role of government in the GCC economy, H.E. Khaled Nasser Abdullah Al Roudan, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Kuwait said: “The government accepts that privatisation is an important next step. We want to generate change and the private sector is an important part of that process. With most of the Gulf countries relying on oil, there has been a need for reforms and this has become imperative. The government cannot carry on its current path, we accept that, and we want to generate change.”

Talking on a panel on the role of diversification in regional investment, HE Zayed R Alzayani, Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, said: “The GCC is starting a new journey. Diversification is top of the agenda and we’re seeing new sectors emerging in the region. For example, Bahrain has doubled the contribution of tourism to GDP in the past three years. No investment in the world is riskless, but the broader trend of the GCC is very positive. The GCC has proven to be sound, growing and people are investing here.”

Speaking on his business’s plans for regional investment, Mohammed Alshaya, Executive Chairman of M.H. Alshaya Co., said: “Each country has its own DNA, its own challenges and opportunities. We as a business are investing every year in the expansion of our business. We’re going ahead with a $4 billion project in KSA – would we do that if we were unhappy?”

H.E. Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Finance, Bahrain addressed the challenges faced in terms of reassessing the role of government expenditure: “The question we need to ask is: How can a finance ministry move from setting a budget to becoming a solutions ministry? It’s no longer just about funding, it’s about individual aspirations.”

HRH the Crown Prince concluded by noting that the government’s efforts, which are based upon the Economic Vision 2030 principles of sustainability, competitiveness, and fairness, are helping Bahrain adjust to rapid economic changes and support sustainable development. In 2017, Bahrain saw a record year for inward investment, with total FDI reaching $733m.

Gateway Gulf brings together over five hundred global investors and business leaders to explore ways of unlocking the opportunities being created by the economic transformation in the GCC.

The event provided a direct route into accessing the GCC market by showcasing major regional investment-ready projects worth over USD $18 billion, while offering an opportunity to match funding with large-scale infrastructure projects in Bahrain.

Bahrain is also fast-tracking substantial public and private sector investment projects worth over USD $32 billion across the manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure, healthcare, education, and tourism sectors, supporting the Kingdom’s goal of long-term, sustainable economic growth.