Bahrain "economically free" but citizens do not agree
According to the annual Index of Economic Freedom published by The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, Bahrain remains the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region’s most economically free country, ranked first out of 15 countries.
Overall, the Kingdom is ranked 12th out of 177 economies worldwide, and is the only MENA country to rank in the top 20. Bahrain’s economic freedom score of 75.5 showed year-on-year improvement and is well above the world average.
The report highlights that the Kingdom’s “transition to greater openness, diversification, and modernisation is based on strong foundations of economic freedom,” and states that as a regional leader in economic freedom, Bahrain sets a critical example for other countries in the region. According to the report, Bahrain has maintained above-average levels of economic freedom in almost every measure and remains a financial hub for dynamic economic activity, with high levels of trade and investment bolstered by a competitive and efficient regulatory environment.
Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister of Transportation and Acting Chief Executive of the EDB, said, “We are delighted that Bahrain continues to hold a leading position in the Index of Economic Freedom. It is a reflection of Bahrain’s strong economic fundamentals, and that we are well positioned to maintain sustainable growth in the year ahead.”
The 2013 Index of Economic Freedom measures the level of economic freedom in 10 pillars: business freedom, trade freedom, fiscal freedom, government size, monetary freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom, property rights, freedom from corruption and labour freedom.
The report has positive comments on Bahrain’s open market environment, stating that the Kingdom has a low average tariff rate and relatively few non-tariff barriers, no restrictions on repatriation of profits or capital, no exchange controls, and no restrictions on converting or transferring funds, whether associated with an investment or not. It highlights Bahrain’s diverse and competitive financial sector which is a significant contributor to GDP, and foreign and domestic investors have access to modern financial services.
Bahrain’s ranking reflects the Kingdom’s competitive advantage as a location for investment into the Gulf market, an economy now worth more than one trillion dollars. 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. In September 2012, the Fraser Institute’s annual Economic Freedom of the World Index ranked Bahrain as the seventh freest economy in the world.