The Bahraini government has launched major development projects in the infrastructure and transportation sectors. Under phase one of the Bahrain International Airport (BIA) Modernization Program, the New Aiport Passenger Terminal, which opened in January 2021, increased BIA’s annual passenger capacity from 8 million to 14 million travelers, and expanded cargo handling capacity to 1 million metric tons per year.
The Bahrain Metro Project, introduced during a global market consultation event in March 2021 and estimated at $2 billion, will cover 109 km with four transit lines and 20 passenger stations through a four-phase, seven year implementation plan. The King Hamad Causeway, which is expected to start construction work in 2024 and cost $4 billion, will run parallel to the existing King Fahd Causeway and boost overland access to Saudi Arabia and the wider GCC market through a new 4 lane highway and two passenger and cargo rail lines.
Strategic planning on a number of other critical infrastructure projects is moving forward, including construction of the U.S. Trade Zone, a planned turnkey production and distribution site adjacent the Khalifa Bin Salman Port in Al-Hidd, as well as expanding roads to less developed parts of the island and connecting all citizens to Bahrain’s national fiber optic network.
The Bahraini government announced in April 2018 the largest oil and gas discovery since oil was first discovered in the country in 1932. The deposits are estimated to consist of at least 80 billion barrels of offshore tight oil in place, which, if proven commercially viable, could enhance Bahrain’s future oil production. In the short-term, the development and commercialization of several additional conventional oil and gas finds represent major opportunities for U.S. oil companies that provide production, transportation, and refining support.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the non-petroleum sector of Bahrain’s economy continued to grow at rates above historic trends. Growth areas include: high-value manufacturing and industrial services, information technology, health care and medical equipment, construction and engineering, ports, professional services, renewable energy, and tourism.
Migration to digital technologies became an essential business practice during the coronavirus pandemic and public and private sector demand for virtual communication, e-learning, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, and cloud based products and services remains strong.
The national healthcare system meets the overall needs of the country’s total population but opportunities exist in Bahrain’s health sector to increase the production of testing kits and personal protective equipment and deliver affordable treatments and therapies during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Beyond Covid-related supplies, Bahrain’s health sector remains a popular destination for American-made medical devices and technology, as well as exchanges between universities and research institutes and training opportunities for healthcare specialists. The normalization of diplomatic ties with Israel offers additional opportunities for technical exchanges and scientific training. A number of largescale health sector infrastructure projects are underway, including the construction of the $66 million King Hamad American Mission Hospital, construction of the $300 million King Abdullah Medical City Hospital, and a planned Covid-19 vaccine manufacturing facility.
Financial technologies (FinTech) is also a growing sector in Bahrain. As part of the Bahraini government’s push to reinforce its position as a regional financial center, the Bahrain Economic Development Board and Singapore’s FinTech Consortium inaugurated a leading MENA FinTech hub, Bahrain FinTech Bay in 2018. Bahrain maintains a forward-leaning FinTech regulatory environnment and was the first MENA country to license a cryptocurrency exchange in 2019 and hosts companies involved in digital banking, e-wallets, blockchain, smart contracts, artificial intelligence, risk management, and other FinTech specializations. Since 2018, the Central Bank of Bahrain has fostered FinTech startups in its regulatory sandbox, including cryptocurrency exchange Rain Financial which raised $110 million in funding from Silicon Valley investors in January 2022.
The Bahraini government plans to increase Bahrain’s land area by more than 15 percent in the coming years by reclaiming land for residential and commercial development.
The Bahraini government’s plans to expand and upgrade production lines at state-owned enterprises, including Gulf Petrochemicals Industries Company (GPIC), and Bahrain Petroleum Company (BAPCO), are underway. In May 2019, the Bahraini government completed construction of an LNG import terminal, and in February 2020, the terminal was commissioned.Companies that produce qualifying manufactured products in Bahrain can access GCC markets duty-free under the GCC Customs Union.