When it comes to financial services, few countries around the world can match the openness and transparency of the Persian Gulf island state of Bahrain. Indeed, the British government describes the Bahraini finance sector as one of the best regulated financial services centres in the Gulf, one which leads the Middle East in a range of sectors from banking to asset management to Islamic finance.
Access to a raft of first-rate financial services is, of course, a major consideration for any business looking to locate to the region. Bahrain is often described as the gateway to the Gulf region itself, a lucrative market of around 100 million people. But there are other positive reasons for setting up a venture there. Companies and individuals don’t pay tax on corporate or personal income and there are no restrictions on the repatriation of capital, profits or dividends. Full foreign ownership of businesses is allowed, too. It’s also easy to open a current account in Bahrain which is particularly useful for any company looking to hire expatriate employees.
The British government’s UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) department says, “Together with its reputation for cultural neutrality and good relations in the region, Bahrain provides a neutral platform for business, enabling companies to serve other markets in the Middle East with great ease, making it the gateway to the Gulf. Bahrain has the shortest travel time between its seaport, airport and the logistics processing zone of anywhere in the Gulf, enabling more efficient and faster processing of trade goods.”
For many decades now, countries all across the Middle East have successfully built up their economies following the discoveries of huge oil and gas reserves. Many have also been quick to realise the finite nature of such bounties and have been actively pursuing diversification policies in order to build up other sectors of their respective economies. This has led to numerous business opportunities over the years for British and other foreign companies.
Now the finance sector, says the UKTI, accounts for more than 25 per cent of Bahrain’s GDP. The country is now a hub for the insurance industry across the Middle East and is home to 165 insurance companies, both conventional and Islamic institutions serving both onshore and offshore markets.
Foreign companies setting up in Bahrain are often pleased to find a highly educated workforce right on their doorstep. According to the UKTI, Bahrain has always been a pioneer in the field of education and training, dating back to 1919 when it was the first country in the Gulf region to establish a system of formal education.
Schooling is free and compulsory for all Bahrainis with almost 11 per cent of all government expenditure directed towards education. The Kingdom boasts an 87 per cent adult literacy rate – amongst the highest in the region.
The UKTI adds, “Education reforms are ongoing and are a top priority for the government of Bahrain. Education is to play a vital role in Bahrain’s Vision 2030 Plan, which proposes a series of cross-sector reforms as the nation diversifies its economy.”
For more information about Bahrain and its business potential, check out the UKTI website here.