Bahrain aims to be Hong Kong to Saudi Arabia’s China

Bahrain hopes a new investment strategy will strengthen its position as a gateway to Saudi Arabia in the same way that Hong Kong has become aa financial hub for China. (Reuters)
Updated 27 January 2018
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Bahrain aims to be Hong Kong to Saudi Arabia’s China

DAVOS: Bahrain is ramping up its drive to attract foreign investment, undeterred by the prospect of big global capital flows toward Saudi Arabia under the Vision 2030 strategy.
Khalid Al-Rumaihi, the former investment banker who heads the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), took the opportunity of the World Economic Forum in Davos to showcase the country’s investment strategy, which is underpinned by $32 billion of planned infrastructure projects across five key sectors.
Al-Rumaihi said: “The Bahrain story is not well understood. We have the ability to become a hub for growing GCC trade flows. We see ourselves potentially playing the same role in the Arabian Gulf as Hong Kong does next to China. There is room for several hubs in the region as there are in Asia.”
The EDB is planning a global investment conference — “Gateway Gulf” — in the country in May to explain its attractions for foreign investors.
He said that while intra-GCC trade had grown substantially — from $15 billion in 2002 to more than $120 billion at the latest estimate — it was still low by the standards of other big trading blocs like the EU. “We think it can get to $500 billion,” he said.
The focus is on five sectors where he sees potential to attract foreign investment: Logistics, light manufacturing, financial services (especially in the growing fintech market), digital technology, and tourism.
Bahrain already has a big tourism industry, with 12 million visitors per year in comparison with its 1.5 million resident population. But, with about 8 million of those tourists coming on short visits from Saudi Arabia, some experts have forecast a threat from the Kingdom’s plans to develop its own tourism and entertainment sector.
“The average stay for Saudi tourists is two days, so we are planning to build up our facilities to encourage them to stay longer,” Al-Rumaihi said.
Beachside hotel facilities as well as shopping and other leisure facilities are underway, with Abu Dhabi developer Eagle Hills involved in several big projects. Dubai leisure group Jumeirah is also involved in two new hotel developments in Bahrain.
Some $7.5 billion of the planned investment spend will come from the Gulf Fund set up by GCC allies after 2011. Al-Rumaihi said that he saw a big future for the GCC, despite the current confrontation with Qatar over terrorism funding allegations. “The GCC is here to stay, despite political issues at the moment. I could even see it getting bigger,” he said.
While Bahrain’s long-established financial industry took a hit from the 2011 disturbances, Al-Rumaihi said foreign investment had recovered since, with FDI statistics showing an increase from $142 million in 2015 to $730 million last year.
Bahrain has attracted some big names to invest in the country, with e-commerce group Amazon and food manufacturer Mondelez recently announcing major investments.


Tunisia to almost double gas production this year

Updated 18 January 2019
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Tunisia to almost double gas production this year

  • The project will be jointly owned by Austria’s OMV and Tunisian National Oil Company ETAP
  • It will include investments of about $700 million

TUNIS: Tunisia will almost double production of natural gas to about 65,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day this year, the industry and energy minister, Slim Feriani, told Reuters on Friday.
The country’s gas output will jump from 35,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boed) when the southern Nawara gas field comes onstream in June, Feriani said.
“We will raise our production by about 30,000 barrels of oil equivalent when the Nawara project in the south will start,” Feriani told Reuters in interview.
This project will be jointly owned by Austria’s OMV and Tunisian National Oil Company ETAP with investments of about $700 million.
Feriani also said Tunisia was seeking to attract about $2 billion in foreign investment to produce 1,900 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy in three years. “We will start launching international bids for the production of renewable wind and sun energy. We aim to produce 1,900 MW by investment of up to $2 billion until 2022,” he said.
This would represent about 22 percent of the country’s electricity production.
PHOSPHATE
Tunisia also plans to raise production of phosphate from 3 million tons to 5 million in 2019, he said.
Raising the output will boost economic growth and provide revenue to revive its faltering economy, the minister said.
Phosphate exports are a key source of foreign currency reserves, which have dropped to levels worth just 82 days of imports, according to Tunisia’s central bank.
Tunisia produced about 8.2 million tons of phosphate in 2010 but output dropped after its 2011 revolution. Annual output has not exceeded 4.5 million tons since 2011.
Feriani said lower production has caused Tunisia to lose markets and about $1 billion each year.
Phosphate exports were hit by repeated protests in the main producing region of Gafsa, where unemployed youth demanding jobs blockaded rail transport.