Bahrain grants first ‘golden licenses’ to five investment projects

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Bahrain granted its first “golden licenses” offering special benefits to five companies that have made large-scale investment projects in the small state totaling more than $1.4 billion, it said on Thursday.

The licenses, granted to Citi, Eagle Hills Diyar W.L.L, Infracorp, Saudi Telecommunication Company and Whampoa Group, give those companies a set of advantages such as fast-tracked approvals, a statement said.

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Projects that qualified for the qualified license created more than 500 local jobs or pledged to invest more than $50 million during their first five years in Bahrain, the economic development board said in the statement.

The move is part of an economic recovery plan launched by the oil-producing state in October 2021 to boost growth and job creation.

“The Golden License will enhance Bahrain’s competitiveness for investment, and economic growth, and encourage the digital transformation of Bahrain’s economy,” the statement said.

Bahrain’s golden license is on offer to local and foreign businesses and benefits include prioritized allocation of land, infrastructure and services, easier access to government services and support from government development funds, the Gulf state said when announcing the scheme in April.

Bahrain’s much larger Gulf neighbors the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have in recent years been making economic and legal reforms as regional competition for talent and investment heats up.

Bahrain, home to the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet, has been one of the most indebted states in the Gulf and was bailed out in 2018 by wealthy neighbors with an aid package of $10 billion tied to reforms aimed at attaining fiscal balance by 2024.

Bahrain has been helped by higher oil prices and real gross domestic product grew 4.9 percent in 2022, its fastest rate since 2013.

Non-oil GDP growth was 6.2 percent in 2022, above the 5 percent target the recovery plan had set for the year.

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