Bahrain Economic Recovery Plan
Pillar 3: Simplifying Commercial Procedures
Bahrain has commenced the rollout of a five-pillar national economic growth and fiscal balance plan (the Plan). The Plan is in line with Bahrain's Economic Vision 2030 and aims to support the country's post-Covid recovery and economic diversification, as well as to enhance the Kingdom's long-term international competitiveness. We have explored the goals and initiatives in respect of pillars 1 – 2 already in this series and this article sets out how the Government of Bahrain proposes to achieve the simplification and increased efficiency of commercial procedures, the third pillar.
The ambition of the Plan for this third pillar is to attract investments into the Kingdom, totalling USD 2.5 billion by 2023. To achieve this, the Government has identified the following key priorities forming part of the third pillar:
1. Upgrading Sijilat and acceleration of the issuance of government licenses to companies'
2. Launching of an electronic system for urban planning services;
3. Continuing the updating of laws and legislation to support ongoing development;
4. Launching of the Government land bank;
5. Offering of residency permits for talented individuals and foreign investors;
6. Signing of international bilateral economic agreements; and
7. Reviewing and documenting Government Services and putting in place service level agreements (SLA).
In the context of this third pillar, the Government has outlined a number of initiatives to aid in its achievement. These initiatives aptly are housed in the sector specific strategies referenced and introduced in the Plan.
As part of the Logistics Services Strategy 2022 – 2026, this primarily takes the form of reviewing the applicable laws and regulations to drive the efficiency of the customs process and strengthening partnerships through the utilisation of SLAs between Customs Affairs and different regulatory authorities. The streamlining of agreements with express transport companies is also aimed to achieve fast and distinguished services.
As part of the Financial Services Sector Development Strategy 2022 – 2026, the third pillar sees the Government target the attraction of financial institutions and investors to the Kingdom. The automation of services offered to investors including digital onboarding for the Bahrain Bourse and Bahrain Clear, paired with planned updates to the Central Bank of Bahrain (CBB) Law, the CBB Rulebook and the issuing of regulatory frameworks for emerging business models, are hoped to help achieve the strategy's key priorities. We have already seen an example of progress on this front, with the CBB earlier this year updating and publishing its revised Volume 7 to the CBB Rulebook, with the update targeted to position the Kingdom in the region as a fund friendly environment. Conceptually, the revised Volume 7 represents a simplified approach: it is easier to understand and more market focused.
In the context of the Industrial Sector Strategy 2022 – 2026, the aim of pillar three is reflected in the updating of regulations and legislations to help drive towards an advanced industry built on innovation and sustainability.
The Telecommunications, IT and Digital Economy Sector Strategy 2022 – 2026, with the objective of strengthening the partnership with the private sector to develop Government services performance and the increasing of the efficiency of such services through e-transformation, gives context to the priority to put in place SLAs in respect of Government services. It is hoped that by 2026 the initiatives pursued will see a minimum of 200 additional automated government services in place, and the attraction of big-tech companies to the Kingdom.
The objectives of this pillar 3 are well on the way to achievement already with the Government earlier this year unveiling the Government Land Investment Platform which will play a big role in strengthen partnerships between the public and private sectors, giving private investors the opportunity to develop government-owned land. Government owned land will be listed and readily available online, with public auctions to be held through the Bahrain Tender Board. We have also already seen the launch by the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs (NPRA) of a new e-service which issues digital residence permits through the Kingdom's online portal, and the introduction of the Golden Residency Visa program. This allows investors, retirees and highly talented individuals to work under a 10 year renewable residence permit, and guarantees sponsorship of residence permits for immediate family members. Both are examples of the practical steps taken to achieve pillar 3 of the Plan.
On the investor front, we have also seen elsewhere in the Plan the proposed introduction of a dedicated investor platform, focused on promoting investment opportunities in the Kingdom. On the platform investors will be able to obtain up-to-date information on available developments and provide a space where they can communicate with the relevant authorities tied to certain investments.
The Plan is an exciting step towards the nation's post-Covid recovery with the aim of solidifying Bahrain's place as a leading economy. To quote His Excellency Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Bahrain’s Minister of Finance and National Economy, “This comprehensive economic and fiscal plan is an investment in our nation’s people, our businesses, and the future of Bahrain”.
Read more - Pillar 1: Developing strategic priority sectors & Pillar 2: Launching major strategic projects