The discovery of oil in the 1930s transformed Bahrain into the Gulf's first oil economy, but early acknowledgement on the part of the Government that oil resources could not generate sustainable economic growth led to the well-engineered diversification program that has yielded today's broad economic base, where oil refining and manufacturing coexist with sophisticated financial, commercial and service sectors. Bahrain is the most diversified and least oil dependent country in the GCC states.

Source: Ministry of Finance and National Economy, National Accounts 2007

Bahrain became a member of the United Nations and the Arab League in 1971. In May 1981 it joined its five neighbours - Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates and formed the strategic alliance called the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC). The GCC seeks to strengthen cooperation in areas such as agriculture, industry, security, investment and trade among its six member states.

Bahrain has an independent legal and judicial system with a framework of commercial laws and, on this strength and its well-developed infrastructure, has become an international and GCC arbitration centre.

Bahrain has been ranked the 16th freest economy in the world, ahead of Japan, Germany, France, India and China and the freest economy in the Middle East according to 2009 Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom. It is ranked as the most liberal economy in the Arab world and boasts one of the most modern cosmopolitan societies in the entire region. It is also the region's financial and banking centre with some 400 banks and financial institutions. The government of Bahrain encourages free trade and foreign investment by allowing 100% foreign ownership and control of company assets and enforces no personal, corporate or withholding taxes.

According to World Investment Report, UNCTAD (September, 2008), the Inward Performance Index 2007, Bahrain rank the 12th position out of 141 economies, ahead of all GCC nations. For the Outward Performance Index 2007, Bahrain ranks 9th of 141 economies, and is ranking ahead of the GCC nations United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The country is also a founding member of the WTO, having gained accession in January 1955. Determined to maintain an open economy that is conducive to both economic and social growth, Bahrain continues to evolve its legal and administrative infrastructure. The most significant move on the part of the Government, in this regard, has been the introduction of the new Commercial Companies Law that has come into effect on January 1, 2002.

Main Economic Indicators 2006 2007 2008
External Total Investment (USD Millions) - - 217,584
Total Foreign Direct Investment (USD Millions) - - 202,201
Aluminium (Metric Tonnes) 860,435 865,048 871,658
Crude Oil (US Barrels Thousands) 66,908 67,262 66,864
Consumer Price Index (2006=100) 100.0 103.3 106.9
Average Monthly Wages in Private Sector (USD) 557 616 704
Average Monthly Wages in Public Sector (USD) 1,857 2,053 2,125
Source: Central Bank of Bahrain

Investment Incentives

  • 100% foreign ownership of companies;
  • 100% foreign ownership of land;
  • No restrictions on repatriation of capital, profits or dividends;
  • Highly favourable tax environment with no personal, corporate or withholding taxes;
  • Easy access to visas;
  • A cost effective, highly trained, bilingual workforce;
  • "Fast track" registration;
  • No custom duties on imports;
  • GCC Customs Union in place;
  • Strategic geographic location as a transit centre in regional market;
  • Free movement of capital and foreign exchange;
  • Sophisticated internationally oriented & highly developed legal framework;
  • Mature legal and administrative infrastructure;
  • Well developed offshore facilities;
  • Advanced telecommunication;
  • Proximity and strong business ties with the major markets;
  • "One-stop" facility responsible for assisting investors with application procedures.

Money & Currency
The national currency is Dinar, with each dinar divided into 1,000 fils. The Bahraini Dinar is pegged with the US dollar at US$ 1= BD0.377. Notes are available in denominations of 1 dinar, 5 dinars, 10 dinars, and 20 dinars. Coins come in units of 5, 10, 25, 50, and 100 fils. Currency can be easily exchanged at the airport, hotels, banks and the money changers.

Business Hours

Establishment Day Time Remarks
Government offices Sunday – Thursday 07:00 – 14:15 Some government offices open for the public from 07:30 – 12:30/3:00/4:30
Banks Sunday – Thursday 07:30 – 13:00 A few branches of some banks also open in the afternoons
Commercial establishments Sunday – Thursday 08:00 - 13:00 Some establishments work 5 days and some 5.5 days a week
Shops 7 days a week 08:00 – 12:30 & 16:00 – 20:00 Some shops are closed on Fridays Some department stores and chemists are open 24-hours a day