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Bahrain To Continue Economic Reforms To Lure More Investments
KUALA LUMPUR, Feb 23 (Bernama) - Bahrain is set to continue its economic reforms to lure more investments into the country as well as diversify non-oil growth, says the kingdom's Economic Development Board (EDB).
Speaking to Bernama, Acting Chief Executive Kamal Ahmed said one way of strengthening Bahrain's economy is by boosting the tourism industry.
The EDB, he added, will work with the Cultural Ministry to promote Bahrain as a tourism destination.
"We have developed infrastructure for the tourism industry, such as shopping malls, museums and cultural sites. What is missing now is marketing," he said during the writer's recent trip to Bahrain.
Bahrain continuously draws five million tourists annually, mainly from its neighbour, Saudi Arabia, to which it is connected by a 25km causeway.
Bahrain's EDB is a public agency with overall responsibility for attracting investments in the country, and focuses on targeted economic sectors.
The key areas of focus include the manufacturing, information communication technology and logistics and transport services.
The kingdom has enjoyed robust economic growth, reaching five per cent in 2013, mainly driven by substantial gains in the oil and gas sectors.
Bahrain's economic growth in 2014 is expected to stabilise to four per cent, with the contribution of the non-oil sector to increase significantly, due to the prospects of large increases in project spending.
"Our role in the EDB is to talk to our target audience, those with the right proposition to enable growth, while creating jobs in Bahrain and serving the bigger market in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)," said Kamal.
Bahrain has lower costs and taxes compared to elsewhere in the Gulf.
It enjoys a reputation as the "Gateway to the Gulf", with the best market access to the economies of the GCC which now exceeds US$1.5 trillion.
The GCC comprises Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Malaysia-Bahrain bilateral trade remains at less than one per cent although both countries have a rich history of engagement on a variety of economic strategic fronts.
"I think the GCC countries, particularly Bahrain, do not have enough links with far-east nations, namely Malaysia and Singapore, (especially on bilateral trade)," said Kamal.
"More has to be done to enhance the economic relationship by creating linkages between the Chambers of Commerce of both countries.
"We need to have exchange visits to enhance and accelerate the growth and relations between Malaysia and Bahrain. I think there are great opportunities to enhance relations as what we have today is not much," he added.
As of 2011, trade with Malaysia accounted for 0.6 per cent of Bahrain's global number, with machinery and parts comprising a bulk of it.
Malaysian construction companies are performing well in Bahrain. Among them are Gamuda Bhd and WCT Holdings Bhd.
Gamuda replaced the Sitra Causeway Bridge in Bahrain, and was the company's most prominent overseas project in the Middle East
The Bahrain International Circuit was developed following a joint venture between construction company Cybarco Ltd and WCT Holdings Bhd,which built the Malaysian Formula One circuit in Sepang.
Bahrain's principal air carrier, Gulf Air is in the midst of expanding its routes and reducing the debt level, said Kamal.
The airline's debt has already dropped to 89.5 million Bahraini dinar from around 200 million and plans to reduce annual losses by at least 10 million in 2014 under a plan to drive it into profitability.
"Gulf Air has come through a tough time, financially, and we have started restructuring exercises from 2013.
"We have set our targets and I have to thank the employees of Gulf Air, who have been working better than we expected," said Kamal.
Bahrain Airport Company, which has been managing and operating the Bahrain International Airport since 2008, is embarking on three-tier upgrading projects involving short-term, medium-term and long-term developments,, mainly to enhance passenger experience.
Chief Executive Officer Mohamed Yousif Al-Binfalah said the work will be mainly focused on upgrading and replacements of assets.
The airport operator has signed several deals, including a 1.2 million Bahraini dinar agreement with China-based Shenzhen CIMC TIANDA Airport Support Ltd, to replace the existing passenger bridges at the airport during the Bahrain International Show last month.
"The terminal building requires serious intervention for its infrastructure. The government is committed to the programmes and we are going to tackle all the safety and security requirements," Al-Binfalah told Bernama.
In 2012, 8.5 million passengers travelled through Bahrain International Airport, an increase by 8.8 per cent from 2011.
The figure is set to rise substantially following the planned airport modernisation projects.
Together with the Khalifa bin Bin Salman Port and Bahrain Logistics Zone, Bahrain offers investors the shortest time between seaport, airport and logistics processing zones anywhere in the Gulf.
Al-Binfalah said the company is going to engage a consultant on upgrading on the airport's IT system.
It is currently conducting a study on the airport operations system for this purpose and is expected to be completed by year-end.
The Bahraini government also intends to build a new airport to cater for the increasing number of passengers, said Al-Binfalah.
He added that two locations had been identified as possiblities for this but a study need to be undertaken for the development.
news coverage in our Newswire service.
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