Compared to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Bahrain's economy has had a particularly good 2012 despite the continuing downturn and the non-existent to sluggish growth experienced in many other parts of the world.
Little wonder then relocation to this little Persian Gulf state is seen as such an attractive proposition for foreign workers from the West and elsewhere. Life for many expatriates is a heady mix of high salaries and savings opportunities, and spending some of the hard-earned money on a little of the good life, too. Who can blame them for doing so?
When it comes to finance, the Bahrain banking sector is well regulated and stable. However, having said that, many expats do in fact choose to open an international account from one of the many multinational banks operating in the region prior to arrival in the country.
It simply makes banking much less complicated. Names like HSBC, Barclays, Citibank and others have almost become synonymous with the Middle East, such is their grip and understanding of both the commercial and retail side of the industry. Not only do they provide the same levels of personal banking you'd expect back home, they're also well known names in the West and therefore completely trusted by expats.
That's not to say, by the way, that Bahrain's domestic banks are in any way inferior or lacking in trust in any shape or form. They are not. They're amongst the finest to be found anywhere. Many expats simply tend to go with a name they're familiar with, nothing more. After all, that's only human nature.
Bahrain is a low-cost business environment
It certainly is, according to KPMG, one of the big four auditing firms in the world. A new report produced by the firm concludes that Bahrain has one of the lowest costs of doing business in the GCC region.
The report's findings reflect Bahrain's competitive advantage as a location for investment into the Gulf market. Strategically located at the heart of the Gulf, Bahrain has long been considered the gateway to the region, with easy access to the large economies of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar.
The Kingdom's highly skilled bilingual local workforce and low cost of doing business mean that it is a natural home for firms looking to invest in the region, says KPMG.
Alongside a low cost of doing business, other recent reports have also highlighted Bahrain's economic strengths. Bahrain was ranked first in the Middle East and 12th worldwide in the 2013 Wall Street Journal/Heritage Foundation Economic Freedom Index. In September 2012, the Fraser Institute's annual Economic Freedom of the World Index ranked Bahrain as the seventh freest economy in the world.
Kamal bin Ahmed, Bahrain's Minister of Transportation and Acting Chief Executive of the Economic Development Board (EDB), said, “We are very pleased about these findings, which reflect the work that the Kingdom has done to create an environment that helps businesses succeed.
“Alongside low operating costs, these efforts have helped to ensure that Bahrain also provides a low tax environment with no personal or corporate taxes, and a highly skilled local workforce that enables businesses to build a long-term presence in the region.”
KPMG added, “The Gulf economies have grown rapidly over the past decade and as the market expands, many local, regional and international businesses will look to continue to build their presence in the GCC. In doing so they need to make sure they choose the right location that offers the best platform for sustainable growth, and this report illustrates that Bahrain has a competitive cost environment.”
Go here to read this and other reports on Bahrain.