His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and Chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB) today chaired a meeting of the EDB board.
During the meeting, HRH the Crown Prince drew attention to the EDB's range of achievements in 2017. His Royal Highness noted that, in working alongside public and private sector partners to develop Bahrain's key economic sectors, the EDB continues to deliver significant progress in-line with His Majesty King Hamad's vision for a modern, diverse economy.
HRH the Crown Prince praised the EDB's role supporting the growth of Bahrain's non-oil sector and its contribution to GDP, noting that EDB initiatives reinforce diversification efforts by ensuring the private sector remains the primary engine of growth.
HRH the Crown Prince stressed the importance of building on the successes of 2017, highlighting the need to continue attracting high levels of new investment into the Kingdom in order to ensure Bahrain's key sectors benefit from global expertise and knowledge transfer.
HRH the Crown Prince welcomed the EDB's new board members and wished them success in their roles. His Royal Highness also thanked the former EDB board members for their efforts in ensuring that the EDB successfully reached its previous objectives.
EDB doubles direct investment in 2017 to reach USD 733 million
HE Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive of the Bahrain EDB, highlighted that the EDB surpassed its 2017 targets in terms of new projects and local job creation, with 2831 new jobs in the private sector created, as well as direct investment, which doubled in 2017 to reach USD 733 million. HE noted that Bahrain's non-oil sector grew by 4.8 percent in Q3 2017 - one of the highest levels of growth in the region - and now constitutes more than 80 percent of the Kingdom's GDP. HE emphasised the EDB's own contribution to diversification, noting that since the EDB's inception in 2001 the non-oil sector has achieved an average of 7.5 percent annual growth.
HE Al Rumaihi summarised the EDB's advocacy initiatives aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of target sectors, promoting economic openness, and cultivating an environment conducive to entrepreneurship. HE highlighted the EDB's ongoing work with stakeholders in the public and private sectors, which led to the launch of a number of initiatives in 2017, including the creation of a Regulatory Sandbox and crowdfunding regulations; measures to protect minority shareholder rights; commercial registration of incubators, accelerators and start-ups; and the establishment of the SME Board.
HE Al Rumaihi noted that the Kingdom saw a number of large investments in 2017, including by Amazon Web Services, which announced the opening of its first 'Region' in the Middle East by 2019, as well as investments by Mondelez and Paytabs. The Chief Executive noted that these success stories are testament to Bahrain's ability to attract quality investment by introducing investors to the Kingdom's business landscape and value proposition, including its strengths as a hub from which to access neighbouring markets.
HE Al Rumaihi also discussed the new initiatives the EDB is targeting in order to further support the Kingdom's transition to a digital economy, improve business licensing procedures, advance the SME ecosystem, and to enhance the logistics and manufacturing sectors.
The EDB board members discussed the SME Board and its importance to increasing the sector's contribution to GDP and exports, while noting its role in creating quality job opportunities for Bahrainis by supporting SMEs through the fostering of innovation, skills development, and enhancing access to finance.
Also discussed at the meeting was the upcoming launch of FinTech Bay, which was formally announced in November 2017. Bahrain FinTech Bay will play a key role in facilitating collaboration between all market participants and stakeholders in the FinTech ecosystem, and will be the biggest dedicated FinTech hub in the region.