The 2019 World Economic Forum (WEF) will kick off on Tuesday with thousands of leaders from across the world gathering in the Swiss ski resort of Davos to discuss a variety of global issues. And Bahrain hopes to shape its open and liberal image, as well as attract more investments during the forum, according to Simon Galpin, managing director of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).
“For us, the WEF is not so much about reaching out to political leaders, but reaching out to business leaders, because we are very much about presenting the fact that Bahrain is opening for business, and emphasising some recent changes and new opportunities that emerged in Bahrain,” said Galpin.
Despite the fact that Bahrain is one the smallest economics in the Gulf region, Galpin remains confident that Bahrain is one of the most opened economies within the region and can offer valuable opportunities for businesses and the best market access to growing Gulf economies and beyond.
The total goods traded between Bahrain and China excluding oil, increased from 872 million U.S. dollars in 2009 to surpass 1.7 billion U.S. dollars in 2017, based on Bahrain EDB website. Bahrain has already attracted some big Chinese names to invest in the country, including the tech giant company Huawei – with its regional headquarters in the country, and China International Marine Containers Company (CIMC).
Galpin believes that Bahrain has rolled out the red carpet for more Chinese investors, adding that the country is willing to see “overall major players” coming into Bahrain.
According to the World Bank Doing Business 2017 report, Bahrain was ranked second in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the ease of doing business index. In Galpin’s opinion, the country shares similar economic characteristics to China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region.
“Bahrain is smaller than Hong Kong. But Bahrain is a gateway economy, very open, very liberal, zero tax. And you are not restricted to have local partners or local investors. You can set up 100-percent centres, similar to Hong Kong,” he told CGTN.
As Bahrain is making strides toward becoming a digital economy and the region’s FinTech hub, Galpin is bullish on opportunities along the digital Belt and Road Initiative, claiming: “We really open up Bahrain for things like e-commerce, data centres, gaming companies who want to use it as a hub.”
“We want to communicate the fact that Bahrain is a very liberal and very open economy. And there are lots of regulatory changes that makes it easier for Chinese businesses and businesses from across the world to set up and use Bahrain as a hub,” he stressed.