Bahrain remains the Mena region’s most economically free country, according to the annual Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal.
The kingdom is the only Mena country to score in the top 20.
Ranked 12th out of 184 economies worldwide, Bahrain’s economic freedom score of 75.2 is well above the world average, said a statement.
The report cites Bahrain’s competitive and efficient regulatory environment, which has ensured the country remains the region’s financial hub – home to more than 400 banks and financial institutions. The financial sector accounts for 25 percent of the country’s GDP, it said.
Shaikh Mohammed Bin Essa Al Khalifa, chief executive of the Bahrian Economic Development Board (EDB), said the findings reflect the success of a decade of social and economic reforms.
Such reforms are enshrined in Bahrain’s Vision 2030, the blueprint for the development of the country’s economy, government and wider society over the coming decades, the statement said.
“Bahrain’s consistently leading position in the index is an important validation of its reform programme and underlines that the kingdom’s economic fundamentals remain as strong as ever. The country has focused on creating sustainable long-term growth, through a sound and flexible economic and fiscal policy, a highly skilled workforce, diversified economy, rule of law and well-run, transparent regulation. These same measures provide the best business environment for companies looking to access the trillion dollar Gulf market,” Shaikh Mohammed added.
The Index of Economic Freedom measures 10 specific freedoms such as trade, business, fiscal, and financial. Bahrain scored above the world average across all pillars and registers particularly impressive scores in fiscal freedom (99.9 percent), labour freedom (91.1 percent) and trade freedom (82.8 percent), out of a total score of 100.
The EDB has the overall responsibility for creating the right climate to attract foreign economic investment under the guidance of HRH Prince Salman Bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince of Bahrain and Chairman of EDB, the statement said.
The index also highlights that as one of the region’s least oil-dependent economies, the kingdom benefits from its competitive and efficient regulatory environment; competitive tax regime; sophisticated financial sector that facilitates the free flow of capital and foreign investment; modern communications and transportation infrastructure; cosmopolitan outlook; and a free trade agreement with the US, it said.
Bahrain’s openness to global commerce is sustained by its “competitive and efficient regulatory environment” and “despite the challenging environment, Bahrain continues to be a financial hub for dynamic economic activity,” Shaikh Mohammed said.