Bahrain has granted its first ‘golden licences’, offering incentives and streamlined services to foreign and local companies that have made large-scale investment projects into the country worth more than $1.4bn.
The licences were awarded to Citi, Eagle Hills Diyar, Infracorp, Saudi Telecommunication Company (stc) and Whampoa Group. Bahrain’s Economic Development Board (EDB), the country’s investment body, said companies eligible to obtain golden licences created more than 500 local jobs or pledged investments of more than $50m in their first years in Bahrain while contributing to strengthening the country’s overall development.
EDB said the greenfield projects and expansions are expected to create over 1,400 job opportunities over the next three years in support of the kingdom’s economic recovery plan.
“The golden licence scheme is a pivotal step towards successfully achieving the objectives of Bahrain’s Economic Recovery Plan, which aims to attract $2.5bn in foreign investment by the end of 2023,” said Adel Fakhro, the Minister of Industry and Commerce.
The golden licence scheme is expected to enhance the country’s competitiveness and boost growth while encouraging the digital transformation of the economy. “The golden license targets local and international companies by providing a set of advantages and facilities for investment projects,” the investment said in a statement.
Singapore’s Whampoa Group, an investment firm with stakes in global tech firms, announced that it would set up the headquarters of its new digital bank in Bahrain in May.
“The golden license is a successful public-private partnership that has created bespoke solutions for investors and startup companies,” said Khalid Humaidan, CEO of Bahrain EDB. “New investment projects are expected to create over 1,400 new job opportunities across Bahrain’s financial services, tourism and technology sectors, cementing the country’s position on an international playing field.”
The new licence is part of an economic recovery plan launched by the Gulf state in October 2021 to create more than 20,000 jobs annually for citizens by 2024 and attract $2.5bn in foreign investment by 2023.
Bahrain’s golden licence scheme
Meanwhile, Bahrain introduced the golden licence scheme in April offers eligible companies a wide range of privileges and benefits, including prioritised allocation of land for investments, infrastructure and services, easier access to government services, support and development funds.
The scheme provides companies that hold the licence streamlined access to government services such as business licencing and building permit approval as well as support from Bahrain’s Labour Fund, Tamkeen and Bahrain Development Bank.
Other advantages include integrated cooperation with various government departments, a designated account manager from EDB as well as a potential review of existing laws or regulations where necessary and applicable.
The Gulf state said the initiative builds upon its growing investment attractiveness. The country’s latest move mirrors the visa systems and other economic and structural reforms that are being implemented across the GCC region as the oil-rich neighbours seek to attract talent and foreign investment in preparation for life after oil.
Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE and Oman have taken steps toward allowing some expatriates permanent residency.
The kingdom’s economy enjoyed a standout year in 2022 and the Gulf state remains relatively insulated from the global economic crisis, elevated inflation and high-interest rates as the economy is projected to grow by 3 per cent in 2023.