Saudi economy returns to growth on back of oil price rises

Capital Economics says Saudi economy grew by 1.5% in the first quarter, after having contracted by 0.7% in 2017

Saudi economy returns to growth on back of oil price rises
Capital Economics says Saudi economy grew by 1.5% in the first quarter, after having contracted by 0.7% in 2017

The Saudi economy pulled out of recession in the first quarter of 2018 thanks to oil price rises, a think-tank said Tuesday.

Capital Economics said the oil-dependent Saudi economy grew by 1.5 percent in the first quarter, after having contracted by 0.7 percent in 2017.

“The oil sector was the main driver of the recovery,” the London-based group said.

Oil prices surged to around $80 a barrel last month from under $30 a barrel in early 2016 after OPEC and non-OPEC producers struck a deal to cut output.

As a result of the crash in prices, the economy dipped into negative territory last year for the first time since 2009, a year after the global financial crisis.

The OPEC kingpin has posted a budget deficit in the past four years, and it has borrowed from domestic and international markets and hiked fuel and power prices to finance the shortfall.

Saudi economy returns to growth on back of oil price rises
Capital Economics says Saudi economy grew by 1.5% in the first quarter, after having contracted by 0.7% in 2017

The Saudi economy pulled out of recession in the first quarter of 2018 thanks to oil price rises, a think-tank said Tuesday.

Capital Economics said the oil-dependent Saudi economy grew by 1.5 percent in the first quarter, after having contracted by 0.7 percent in 2017.

“The oil sector was the main driver of the recovery,” the London-based group said.

Oil prices surged to around $80 a barrel last month from under $30 a barrel in early 2016 after OPEC and non-OPEC producers struck a deal to cut output.

As a result of the crash in prices, the economy dipped into negative territory last year for the first time since 2009, a year after the global financial crisis.

The OPEC kingpin has posted a budget deficit in the past four years, and it has borrowed from domestic and international markets and hiked fuel and power prices to finance the shortfall.

It also introduced a five-percent value-added tax from the start of 2018.

The world’s top crude exporter has seen a key boost in its revenues after the recovery in oil prices.

Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment said Monday that Saudi fiscal reserves rose by $13.2 billion in April, marking its largest monthly increase since October 2013.

The reserves stood at $506.6 billion in April, down from $732 billion at the end of 2014.

Since 2014, Saudi budget deficits have totalled $260 billion and the government is projecting a 2018 shortfall of $52 billion.

By AFP, 05 Jun 2018

Dubai property market expects mid-term rebound

In mid-April the Dubai Land Department (DLD) issued its quarterly report on real estate transactions, which showed there had been 13,759 sales, mortgage agreements or other deals conducted in the first three months of the year.

The total value of the transactions reached Dh58bn ($15.8bn), with the bulk of that figure – Dh30.6bn ($8.3bn), or 3717 agreements – comprised of mortgages. A further Dh19bn ($5.2bn) was posted in direct sales, with just over 950 transactions recorded, while other transfers accounted for Dh8.4bn ($2.3bn).

The first-quarter results fell short of those posted for the same period in 2017, when some 20,000 transactions were conducted, worth a combined Dh77bn ($21bn).
Nonetheless, foreign interest in the property market remained reasonably strong, with overseas investors accounting for more than 5000 transactions, well over one-third of the quarterly total.

Despite a slower first-quarter year-on-year, an increase in activity is expected later in 2018, according to Sultan Butti bin Mejren, director general at the DLD.
“Achieving almost Dh58bn ($15.8bn) in transactions shows strong momentum in the real estate sector for the first quarter, and we expect this to raise the second-quarter transaction index and continue to rally before the end of the year,” he told media.

Muted forecasts for growth in property transactions

While first-quarter figures suggest market activity will need to accelerate if year-end 2018 results are to match those of last year, when 69,000 transactions worth a total value of Dh285bn ($77.6bn) were registered, some analysts have challenged recovery forecasts.

Ratings agency and financial services firm S&P, for example, suggests the Dubai property market could remain flat or lose ground this year, pointing to falling prices and rising supply as a challenging combination.

Rents and sales prices in the residential and retail segments were likely to ease further in 2018, after falling by between 5% and 10% last year, the agency said in a report issued in February.

Residential supply levels expanded by an estimated 3800 units in the first quarter, according to data from property consultancy Cavendish Maxwell, with new retail land office space also being rolled out in the opening months of 2018.

Mortgage changes to raise investment interest

Increasing supply across all real estate sectors in Dubai is affording occupiers a widening choice of location and quality. This choice has caused some landlords to reduce their pricing in order to remain competitive. “The market is very sensitive to pricing and in spite of a significant increase in transaction volumes in 2017, I expect values to decline during 2018 as landlords and tenants try find a new level of pricing to reflect new and forthcoming supply levels,” Nicholas MacLean, CEO of real estate consultancy CBRE, told OBG.

To help address the imbalance, the authorities are introducing measures to facilitate real estate transactions. In late April the DLD announced plans to develop a new mortgage and finance law designed to attract further investment to the sector. The legislation is expected to allow specialised funds, such as real estate investment trusts, to enter the Dubai market more easily.

VAT relief supports investor confidence

Prospects for expanded financing opportunities under the upcoming mortgage law came fast on the heels of another move designed to stoke investor confidence.

In late March the DLD and the Federal Tax Authority stated that all real estate transactions will be exempt from the newly imposed 5% value-added tax (VAT), with the exception of sales of vacant commercial properties and commercial property leases. Furthermore, leased commercial property will not be considered a supply during its sale by the taxable person and will therefore not be taxable.

The statement added that up to 85% of all elements of the Dubai real estate sector would not be subject to the new levy.

There had been concerns in the lead up to the introduction of the broad-based goods and services tax that most, if not all, real estate transactions would have the 5% VAT applied.

The general exemption of most components of the property market could boost confidence in the sector and encourage further investments.

By Staff Writer, Oxford Business Group
31 MAY, 2018
© Oxford Business Group 2018

Bahrain tops Middle East for work-life balance – survey

Bahrain is the second best country in the world for expat work-life balance, behind only Denmark, according to a new report from InterNations.

In its “Expat Insider” survey – which queried over 12,500 respondents in 188 countries – InterNations found that 46 percent of expats cited work-related reasons for moving to Bahrain, while 69 percent said they were satisfied with work-life balance.

Additionally, 72 percent of respondents in Bahrain reported being satisfied with working hours, which averaged 42.9 hours a week, compared to the global average of 44.3 hours.

Of the respondents in Bahrain, 73 percent said they were “generally satisfied” with their work, while 36 percent said they were “completely satisfied”.

Denmark was ranked first for work-life balance, followed by Bahrain, Norway, the Czech Republic, New Zealand, Sweden, Costa Rica, the Netherlands, Oman and Malta.

In Oman, 43 percent of expats reported moving to Oman for work-related reasons, and 60 percent said they were generally satisfied with their job.

U.A.E. Backs 100% Foreign Ownership of Local Companies

The United Arab Emirates is abandoning decades of restrictions on foreigners owning companies and settling in the Gulf country to help lure money and talent in a slowing economy.

The new rules, reported by the state-run WAM news agency, include allowing non-Emiratis to control a company outright and offering residency of up to 10 years to specialists in medical, scientific, research and technical fields and top students. The changes will take effect by the end of this year.

It’s the biggest recognition yet that the second-largest Gulf economy is more reliant than ever on foreign investment and an expatriate workforce at a time when the oil-dependent region faces challenges rarely seen since the 1990s.

It follows legislation in neighboring Qatar last August that granted some foreigners the right to remain indefinitely as it adapts to a yearlong embargo on the country led by Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations including the U.A.E.

Like in most other Persian Gulf states, a majority of the U.A.E.’s population of 9 million consists of foreigners who are expected to leave once their employment ends and many send earnings abroad. In 2017 alone, expatriates remitted 164 billion dirhams ($45 billion), according to WAM.

“There seems to be a clear shift in policy to supporting economic activity, boosting investment and putting in place a framework to future development,” said Monica Malik, chief economist at Abu Dhabi Commercial Bank. The measures could help by increasing “investments levels, population inflows, development of new sectors especially in the technology front and reducing remittances out of the country,” she said.

While Abu Dhabi and especially Dubai have thrived on tourism, financial services and as airline hubs, the U.A.E. government is turning to science and technology to ensure the country can keep growing. The growth rate in the economy has slowed to levels last seen in 2010 and the real estate market has a glut of empty apartment blocks.

Changes to ownership rules are a significant departure from the policy of restricting foreign ownership outside so-called free zones such as the Dubai International Financial Centre. Foreigners seeking to establish businesses outside those zones, which are exempt from most local rules, must seek partnerships. U.A.E. citizens have to own 51 percent of the ventures.

“We expect a significant positive effect on foreign direct investments,” said Jaap Meijer, managing director and head of equity research at investment bank Arqaam Capital Ltd. in Dubai. “The decision should also help net immigration, which should significantly alleviate the current pressure on housing markets.”

The benchmark stock index in Dubai climbed as much as 1.4 percent, the most since April 15, before trimming the gain to 1 percent at the close. The gauge in Abu Dhabi rose 0.7 percent.

By Abbas Al Lawati, May 20, 2018,

Bahrain opens giant residential town, to house 90,000

His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa last night opened the biggest residential town in Bahrain – the Northern Town – in the presence of HRH Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa and HRH Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince, Deputy Supreme Commander and First Deputy Premier.

He announced that the new housing project would be named “Salman Town”, in tribute to HRH the Crown Prince for his dedicated efforts and outstanding contribution to the nation’s progress and prosperity, reported BNA.

The new housing town will boast all major amenities including health, educational, religious and sport and transportation facilities in addition to modern road network and developed infrastructure for more than 90,000 residents.

UAE-based Abu Dhabi Fund for Development (ADFD) has allocated Dh2.6 billion ($700 million) towards the project. It has been developed as part of the Dh9.175 billion ($2.5 billion) UAE grant for Bahrain being managed by ADFD within the GCC development programme for Bahrain.

HM the King was greeted by school students on his arrival at the site of the ceremony. He was also welcomed by Housing Minister Basim bin Yacoub Al Hamer and Northern Governor Ali Abdulhussein Al Asfoor.

Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, HM the King said he was delighted to launch the landmark model Northern Town, taking pride in Bahrain’s successive development achievements.

“By good fortune, the opening of this modern milestone comes as part of a massive urban and civilisational stride that meets the needs of all region and consolidates the standing of each governorate to play its role in supporting the national economy for Bahrain to be a model of modernism and development.” he remarked.

He lauded the Bahraini nationals for their crucial contribution to the landmark march of development, hailing citizens’ enlightened thinking and firm belief in their ability to brave all challenges and seize all opportunities for positive change – all for the sake of he nation’s progress and prosperity.

“These lofty qualities, which long marked the people of Bahrain since olden times, is now leading them towards more security and stability”, said HM the King, commending all enterprises for supporting the completion of the project – adding that the Northern Town would rank among the cities of the future. At the end of the ceremony, HM the King handed over the first two units to eligible recipients.

In his address, Al Hamer paid tribute to HM the King for patronising the inauguration of the landmark development. The housing minister hailed the string of remarkable achievements and outstanding strides in the prosperous era.

Al Hamer cited the royal order to construct 40,000 units, describing the move as a quantum in the housing momentum which spans up to 60 years, during which towns and blocs were construction countrywide.

He underlined various stages in constructing the model town, ever since HRH the Crown Prince laid the foundation stone, including reclamation, engineering blueprints in cooperation with the French Urban Authority, reported BNA.

He said work on more than 3,000 housing units had already been completed, pointing out that the Northern Town would have eventually the capacity to accommodate more than 90,000 people.

The Northern Town features all amenities, including health, educational, religious and sport and transportation facilities and services, in addition to modern road network and developed infrastructure.

He commended the support of the government, chaired by HRH the Premier, as well as HRH the Crown Prince through the Executive Committee. He also commended the ministerial committee for urbanization and infrastructure, chaired by Deputy Prime Minister Shaikh Khalid bin Abdulla Al-Khalifa, said the report.

ADFD Director General Mohammed Saif Al Suwaidi said: “We have actively supported Bahrain government over the past years in achieving its sustainable development objectives. These ADFD funded projects have translated into profound benefits for Bahraini society and accelerated the country’s economic growth.”

ADFD, he stated, is committed to stepping up collaboration with the Bahraini government and moving ahead with the implementation of several vital development projects in the country that serve key sectors including housing, water, health, transport and communications.

Spanning an area of nearly 740 hectares, the city was built after filling about 37.5 million cu m of land in the shallow part of the Bahrain Island with a depth ranging from half a metre to two and a half metres over the past two years.

In addition to housing, the project involves the construction of roads and two dedicated pedestrian and vehicular bridges, as well as the provision of sewage services.

Later a documentary film which showcases the construction of the multi-phased Northern Town was shown, highlighting cooperation between all parties and different amenities and facilities – including beaches, mosques, schools, universities, and nurseries, in addition to hospital, health centres and clinics and sport city which includes a football stadium, it added.


UAE’s VAT move has gone well, inflation to moderate- IMF official

DUBAI- The United Arab Emirates’ introduction of value-added tax has gone smoothly and inflation, having jumped in response, will moderate, the head of the International Monetary Fund’s mission to the country said on Thursday.

Natalia Tamirisa said the 5 percent VAT rate imposed at the start of this year was a big cultural and administrative shift in a country that has traditionally had minimal taxation.

“Given the challenges, VAT introduction has been well managed and relatively smooth,” she told Reuters after a visit to the UAE for talks with authorities.
Annual consumer price inflation jumped to 4.8 percent in January, the highest since 2015, but dropped back to 3.4 percent in March. Tamirisa said the latest data suggested the impact of the tax would be short-lived, partly because inflation had dropped in areas of the economy not covered by VAT.

Slumping real estate markets in Abu Dhabi and Dubai have pulled down residential rents, which are heavily weighted in consumer price indexes.
Inflation is expected to average 3.5 percent this year, up from 2.0 percent last, but will ultimately settle around 2.5 percent, Tamirisa predicted.

She said the new tax was expected to lift revenues by 1.5 percent of gross domestic product in the long run.

Tamirisa said property market weakness was having a significant economic impact and authorities needed to monitor this carefully. Average rents sank 10.2 percent in Abu Dhabi in 2017 and 5.2 percent in Dubai, according to the central bank.

“There is persistent supply coming into the market so at least for this year, the balance between supply and demand is likely to keep prices soft,” Tamirisa said.

But partly because authorities had taken steps to limit speculation, the weak property prices did not pose a systemic threat to the economy as they did almost a decade ago during the Dubai financial crisis.

Tamirisa said it was too early to assess the impact on the UAE of the U.S. pullout from the Iran nuclear deal, partly because the impact on Iran itself was not yet clear.

The UAE could benefit if Iran found it harder to sell its oil, giving Arab oil producers more room to boost their crude exports at higher prices. But Dubai has close business links with Iran and these could suffer, economists say.

By Andrew Torchia, Reuters News
(Reporting by Andrew Torchia; editing by John Stonestreet) ((; +9715 6681 7277; Reuters Messaging:

King Salman launches Qiddiya project near Riyadh

Riyadh — Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman officially launched on Saturday Qiddiya, the entertainment, sports and cultural destination that will be the first of its kind in the Kingdom.

Spanning an area of 334 square kilometers, the new destination is just 40 kilometers west of the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The ground-breaking ceremony was conducted in the presence of Crown Prince Muhammad Bin Salman, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Defense and Chairman of the Public Investment Fund, as well as several princes and ministers and an audience of 300 dignitaries from around the world.

King Salman placed the last baton of the Qiddiya logo, triggering a spectacular firework show that lit up the sky outside the capital and dramatically illuminated the Tuwaiq Mountain cliffs overlooking the site.

The Public Investment Fund (PIF), which supports the project, affirmed that Qiddiya is a cultural, recreational and social achievement that strengthens the rich fabric of Saudi Arabia and meets the growing needs of Saudi citizens to develop their hobbies, test their talents and enjoy domestic tourism and leisure activities.

Qiddiya will also be a significant addition to the Saudi economy, and will enhance national income sources. More importantly, it is the center of a completely new economic sector that will also lead to the emergence of additonal sectors and services as it develops.

PIF has announced Qiddiya and other major projects aimed at diversifying the national economy to overcome oil price fluctuations and avoid relying on a single major source of income as outlined in Vision 2030.

The Ground-breaking Ceremony included the national anthem at the arrival of King Salman at the ceremony site, followed by a recitation from the Holy Quran, and then by an opening address from the CEO of Qiddiya, Michael Reininger.

Saudi rising talent then took the stage with Aa’ed Yousef performing a song with lyrics written by Prince Bader bin Abdulmohsen as a present to King Salman.

The display of Saudi talent highlighted the opportunity that Qiddiya will present to develop the abilities of young Saudis.

The Ceremony included a three-act show that took the audience through time, examining Saudi Arabia’s past, present and future growth.

The first act began with a story about an elderly man’s memories of Saudi Arabia as he reflected on what life was like for him as the country developed. He then moved on to his thoughts about the present day, the changes that are taking place, and then to the future, the country’s wise leadership and the direction the country is now moving in, as it realizes its potential and works to realize the goals of Vision 2030.

The second act featured a video focusing on the tourist attractions that visitors will find at Qiddiya, from theme parks and nature encounters to sporting activities. The audience was immersed, through a spectacular visual presentation projected onto the walls of the venue, in a display of what will be offered at Qiddiya.

The show ended with Act 3 as King Salman placed the last piece of the Qiddiya logo, which will be the inspiration guiding the project.

The CEO of Qiddiya, Michael Reininger, commented: “In creating Qiddiya, we are building a brighter future. One filled with culture, sports, entertainment, and the arts that responds to the Saudi people’s desire for new and accessible activities that enrich their lives.”

Reininger added: “Qiddiya will also create a self-sustaining ecosystem. Based on our five cornerstones, which are parks and attractions; motion and mobility; nature and environment; sports and wellness; and culture, arts, and education, our development will be supported by retail, residential, and hospitality offerings to form a fully-integrated entertainment destination.”

Reininger invited investors and operators from around the world to explore what a one-of-a-kind project like Qiddiya has to offer. He pointed out that the project will seek out the best as they create a new entertainment experience for all residents and visitors of Saudi Arabia.

“With nearly two thirds of the Kingdom’s population under 35 and over 7 million people residing within 40 kilometers of this location, international investors are taking note of this powerful, untapped market, right here, on the doorstep of Riyadh,” he said.

Reininger also noted that Qiddiya – with a land area that is 2.5 times the size of Walt Disney World, or 100 times the size of Central Park in New York – aims to attract 17 million visitors by 2030.

Visitors to Qiddiya will have access to groundbreaking entertainment, sporting, and cultural attractions across innovatively designed facilities focusing on: theme parks and entertainment centers; sports amenities capable of hosting international competitions, and training academies; desert and asphalt tracks for motorsport enthusiasts; water and snow-based recreation; outdoor and adventure activities alongside nature and safari experiences; and an array of historical, cultural and educational activities and events. There will also be malls, restaurants, cafes, hotels and real estate projects, and services to cater for all segments of society.

The project will allow the domestic economy to recapture billions of dollars spent annually by Saudis on foreign tourism, by providing world-class entertainment options to the Saudi people. These funds will remain in the Kingdom to be reinvested for the benefit of citizens.

Saudi Gazette report

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Dubai among world’s top 3 model smart cities

Emirate has been taking a pioneering role in self-driving cars, automated ports, testing of delivery robots and drones and social robots among others.

Dubai has been chosen among the world’s top 3 model smart cities, pioneering in different public and private services for the betterment of its residents. This thanks to a host of initiatives adopted by the government which are aimed at not just robotising the public services but also to make the emirate the happiest city on Earth.

As part of smart city initiatives, Dubai has been taking a pioneering role in self-driving cars, automated ports, testing of delivery robots and drones and social robots among others.

Mateja Kovacic, visiting research fellow, University of Sheffield, has picked Tokyo, Singapore and Dubai as model smart cities.
She said Dubai is an emerging prototype of a smart city.

“Rather than seeing robotisation simply as a way to improve the running of systems, Dubai is intensively robotising public services with the aim of creating the ‘happiest city on Earth’,” she said in the note.
She pointed out that national governments are in competition to position themselves on the global politico-economic landscape through robotics, and they are also striving to position themselves as regional leaders.

“This was the thinking behind the city’s September 2017 test flight of a flying taxi developed by the German drone firm Volocopter – staged to ‘lead the Arab world in innovation’. Dubai’s objective is to automate 25 per cent of its transport system by 2030,” she noted.

Though the emirate has been crowned the regional leader in the smart city, however, analysts believe that there is still a long road ahead for the city to become global leader despite major advances and achievements acquired by it over the past few years.

Frederic Paquay, senior consultant, MEA, public sector and government, Frost & Sullivan, said Dubai has the ambition to become the smartest city in the world and the emirate announced the launch of the Dubai Smart City Project in 2013.

“In this context several initiatives have been planned and some are already implemented or conducted: establishment of Smart Dubai and Dubai Future Foundation as the government agencies leading the revolution, the world’s first blockchain-powered government by 2020, the world’s 3D-printing hub, 25 per cent of all rides in Dubai to be driverless by 2025, etc. However, the city still faces some challenges with regard to regulations, infrastructure, the entire approach of the government, homegrown tech innovation, etc. It is therefore our opinion that Dubai still has to work on various action items to meet its futuristic vision,” opined Paquay.

Citing examples, he said Dubai ranks 37 in Easy Park’s 2017 Smart City Index, 28 in 2thinknow’s 2016-2017 Innovation Cities Index and 29 in the Startup Cities Index. “If the city remains first in the region, it can still improve various parameters to take over the lead from Western and Asian competition.”

According to a Frost & Sullivan report, global smart cities to raise a market of more than $2 trillion by 2025 with artificial intelligence, personalised healthcare, robotics and distributed energy generation among technologies that will drive growth, efficiency, connectivity and urbanisation.

By 2050, over 80 per cent of the population in developed countries is expected to live in cities and 60 per cent from the developing world. The Asia-Pacific region is anticipated to be the fastest-growing region in the smart technology space by 2025.

In Asia, more than 50 per cent of smart cities will be in China, with smart city projects generating $320 billion for China’s economy by 2025.

“Currently most smart city models provide solutions in silos and are not interconnected. The future is moving towards integrated solutions that connect all verticals within a single platform. Internet of Things is already paving the way to allow for such solutions,” said Vijay Narayanan, visionary innovation senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.

Paquay noted that Dubai is a young city and the smart city initiatives are still recent. However, Dubai has been evolving quite rapidly compared to the rest of the world and is today leading the way in the GCC and Mena region. The vision developed by Dubai government is, in this case, an important enabling parameter and most of international experts today see Dubai as a leading actor in the smart economy.

“Nevertheless, Dubai still remains at an emerging stage and we believe it should undertake a comprehensive future economy strategic plan involving all government and private stakeholders to become one of the smartest cities in the world. Several initiatives must be developed today to prepare the future in the next 15-30 years, some of them being, educating and training the human capital to improve access to the right talents, developing R&D programmes and incentives to create homegrown tech innovations, preparing the market ecosystem and the business community to the future smart economy, creating a holistic regulatory framework towards sustainable acceleration, etc.”

Today, Dubai is not the smartest city in the world, but with the work conducted by all government agencies including Smart Dubai and Dubai Future Foundation to build the right blocks for the future, there is no doubt that the emirate will become one of the smartest of all cities in the world in the years to come, he concluded.

By Waheed Abbas, Khaleej Times, 28 APRIL, 2018
Copyright © 2018 Khaleej Times. All Rights Reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (

Tourism to contribute ‘double digits’ to Bahrain’s GDP in coming years

In 2017, tourism and hospitality contributed about 6.3 percent to the country’s GDP, according to official figures

Bahrain hopes that the tourism and hospitality sector will contribute “double digits” to its GDP over the next several years, according to Ali Ghunam Murtaza, the director of real estate, tourism and leisure business development at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB).

According to official figures, tourism contributed 6.3 percent to Bahrain’s GDP in 2017.

Speaking to Arabian Business at the Arabian Travel Market, Murtaza said that the figure is likely to grow as ongoing tourism projects are completed.

“We foresee the contribution to go up for many reasons. Part of that is that we are actively working towards it. We want the contribution of tourism to increase along with other sectors in Bahrain,” he said. ” It’s an active strategy.”

“Through direct and indirect investment to tourism, I think it will be a big part of GDP,” he added. “Our aim is to get into double digits soon.”

In the longer term, Murtaza said he hopes that tourism’s contribution to GDP will reach as high as 20 percent, as much as other sectors such as banking.

“We aim to get it there in the long run,” he noted, adding that the county also hopes to attract 15 million tourists a year by 2020, up from approximately 12.7 million in 2017.

Additionally, Murtaza noted that investment in Bahrain’s tourism sector has reached $13 billion, a figure which encompasses 14 separate projects in the country’s tourism and leisure sector.

The tourism projects, in turn, form part of a larger infrastructure development campaign across a number of sectors, which is collectively valued at more than $32 billion.

“We have fantastic five-star resorts coming in, such as the Address, the Vida, the Jumeirah [Royal Saray], and so forth,” he said. “In addition to that, we’ve also started adding to our retail offerings, such as The Avenues, and we have a couple of others.”

To encourage more visitors to come to Bahrain, Murtaza noted that Gulf Air has invested nearly $7.2 billion to expand its fleet and “modernise the Gulf Air brand”, as well as $1.1 billion investments into expanding and improving Bahrain’s national airport, a project which Murtaza said is approximately 60 percent complete.

Looking to the future, Murtaza said that partnering with foreign investors is a key pillar of Bahrain’s strategy to increase visitor numbers and revenue from tourism.

“We work with them [companies based outside of Bahrain] very closely to identify opportunities where they can bring synergy to the table, where they bring quality investment, quality operations,” he said. “There are a lot of firms around the world with a lot of specific experiences.”

“We work to identify the top ones, and we work to get them to like Bahrain, get them to understand the opportunities, and then we enable the investment,” he added. “We are partners for the long-run.”

By Bernd Debusmann Jr, 23 Apr 2018