Manama (Bahrain): The US, UK and Australia, among others, are introducing new rules to restrict the entry of foreigners to work in sectors like information technology, ITeS, tourism and hospitality and healthcare, a small Gulf state is going the other way. Bahrain, one of the countries in Gulf Corporation Council, which is tax-free, is inviting industries in such sectors by providing infrastructure along with incentives like 100 per cent foreign ownership, no restrictions on recruitment for a certain period, land on lease at low rates and providing pre-furnished office space at nominal rents.
Bahrain is spread across just 763 sq. km of land — the area is almost equal to that of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation — and has eight major industrial areas. The Bahrain International Industrial Park is the biggest among them, at 247 hectares. Director of industrial areas operations management Bader Fareed Al-Saad told this newspaper that the Bahraini government would provide approvals within two months to six months.
Permissions from departments like environment, electricity and health are most important for establishing a unit in any industrial area in Bahrain. “So far, we have 116 mega projects in 2.5 million sq. mts area of 721 million Bahraini Dinar of investments. We are offering land on lease for 25 years at 1 Bahrain Dinar (`180) as rent per annum and pre-furnished offices at nominal monthly rents,” Mr Al-Saad said. He added: “We have very good labour laws that protect workers as well as industrialists. Eight-hour shift system is mandatory and the labour will be paid overtime for work beyond eight hours. For Bahraini nationals, the work is for 10 hours. We are providing exemptions on customs tax on imports of raw material and free trade with the US and Saudi countries, including six of the members of the GCC.”
Mr Al-Saad said that Bahrain has major Indian industries like JBF, APM terminals and others contributing to its development. “Except, real estate sector, we are allowing 540 other sectors,” he said. Director of logistics zones’ directorate Mr Hamad M. Fakhro said that Bahrain has the largest port with sophisticated terminals for imports and exports. “Transportation of products is very easy for industrialists in this country. It is a mere 10-minute journey from the international airport to the BIIP and five-minute journey from BIIP to the port. The 25 km long causeway between Bahrain and Saudi Arabia on sea has reduced travel time. Industrialists can send their products by trucks in 1.5 hours to Saudi Arabia from BIIP. About 1,000 trucks pass through the causeway every day. We are planning similar causeway between Bahrain and Qatar. Bahrain has good logistics with US$ 1.4 trillion GDP,” he said.
Chief Representative of Confederation of Indian Industries in Bahrain C.S. Raghavan said that there was great scope for investing in Bahrain in healthcare, ITeS, food processing and tourism sectors. “Besides this, we are advising Indian industrialists to opt for electricity equipment manufacturing, ceramics, textiles and aluminium industries,” he said.
Partner in Electrosteel Anil Sharma said that they have units in India. “For storage of stock and transportation of electro-steel pipes, we established a unit in Bahrain If we go to any other Arab country for supplying products, we have to bear customs at ports and for trading with other countries. Due to Bahrain’s industrial policy, we are free from such taxes and thus benefit with the incentives,” he said.