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Country Forecast Bahrain September 2017 Updater

Country Forecast Bahrain September 2017 Updater

  • September 2017
  • ID: 1698458
  • Format: PDF
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit

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  • Bahrain will face persistent social unrest throughout the forecast period, exacerbated by the government's hardline approach to the moderate opposition. Bomb attacks on security personnel are likely as a growing number of Shia Bahrainis are radicalised. The ruling Al Khalifa family will, however, remain in power, backed up, if necessary, by the security services of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Sectarian tensions between the Shia majority and the ruling Sunnis will persist, heightened by a mistrust of Shia Iran, which is considered a threat to the regime. The need to bring in unpopular austerity measures is likely to further inflame tensions between the poorer Shia population and the government.
  • Policymaking will remain concentrated in the hands of the government, which is dominated by the ruling family. However, political effectiveness will be constrained by opposition from the elected parliament and by the low price of oil (which generates around 80% of government revenue). Despite opposition, there will continue to be progress in reforming the extensive subsidy system.
  • Government efforts to boost the local skills base and narrow the cost gap between expatriates and locals in the private sector will be stepped up as unemployment picks up and public-sector hiring slows. As a result, the government will take a tougher stance on enforcing "Bahrainisation" quotas, including fines for companies in violation. However, these efforts will be constrained by the tightness of the public finances and the private sector's reliance on expatriate labour, as well as the reluctance of Bahrainis to take private-sector jobs.
  • Bahrain will maintain an open attitude towards foreign investment, allowing 100% foreign ownership of firms in the country, albeit in select sectors. However, its position as a regional financial centre relative to Dubai, in particular, will weaken over the forecast period. It will seek to provide best-practice regulation in its financial services sector and attract private investment in infrastructure, in an attempt to remain competitive with its Gulf Co-operation Council peers.
  • The Economist Intelligence Unit forecasts that real GDP growth will slow in 2017-18, owing mainly to cuts in state spending in the wake of the oil price slump, with knock-on effects on private consumption. Oil prices will remain relatively low, although they will pick up in 2021, meaning that the fiscal and current accounts will record deficits throughout the forecast period. However, the deficits will narrow as export earnings rise on the back of higher aluminium and oil refining capacity.


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