Economic and Political Overview

flag Bahrain Bahrain: Economic and Political Overview

In this page: Economic Indicators | Foreign Trade in Figures | Sources of General Economic Information | Political Outline | COVID-19 Country Response

 

Economic Indicators

Bahrain's economy is closely linked to the fluctuation in global crude oil prices as the rest of the region. However, its impact is much narrower compared to other Gulf countries due to the relatively diverse nature of the Bahraini economy. Bahrain experienced strong growth in 2022 (+4.9%); however, growth moderated to 2.7% in 2023, driven by non-oil GDP expanding by 3.3%, attributed to fiscal consolidation, increased interest rates, and a base effect from strong growth in 2022. Going forward, GDP is expected to pick up to 3.6% in 2024 and 3.2% the following year, on the back of higher energy prices, easing monetary policy, and stronger export growth (IMF). Private consumption is poised to remain the primary growth driver, constituting approximately 40% of GDP, buoyed by alleviating inflationary pressures. However, notable uncertainty persists in the forecast, stemming from factors such as oil price fluctuations, international financial instability, ongoing tightening measures, and a potential slowdown in global growth.

In 2023, Fitch projected that the general government budget deficit would narrow to 4.9% of GDP, down from 5.9% in 2022. Despite a decline of approximately 3% in oil revenue, revenues were expected to increase. Fitch also forecasted a similar trend for 2024, projecting a budget deficit of 3.4% of GDP. The authorities aimed for a balanced budget with an oil price of USD 60 per barrel in 2024, a considerable reduction from the USD 105 fiscal breakeven oil price in 2022. According to Fitch, the budget for 2023-24 outlined a credible strategy for substantially enhancing the non-oil balance. This strategy encompassed increased revenues from newly implemented and revised taxes and fees, augmented revenues from gas sales achieved through enhanced collection methods and higher volumes, as well as elevated dividends from state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Despite robust fiscal reform efforts and a reduction in budget deficits, the debt-to-GDP ratio rose to 121.2% in 2023, up from 117.6% the previous year. Also, thanks to the positive impact of subsidies, inflation decreased in 2023, averaging an estimated 1%, following a 3.6% rate in 2022 (IMF). Over the forecast horizon, inflation is expected to remain between 1.4%-1.8%.

Being a small country, Bahrain relies heavily on the foreign workforce. In the second quarter of 2023, total employment reached 770,129 workers. Foreign workers' employment accounted for 609,028 workers by the quarter's end, marking an 8.1% annual increase. Meanwhile, Bahraini employment stood at 161,101 workers, reflecting a slight annual decline of 0.2% (data Labour Market Regulatory Authority). According to the latest figures available from the IMF, unemployment stood at 5.4% as of end-2022. Overall, Bahrain has a high GDP per capita (PPP), estimated at USD 61,248 in 2022 by the World Bank.

 
Main Indicators 20222023 (E)2024 (E)2025 (E)2026 (E)
GDP (billions USD) 44.3844.6746.7948.7350.73
GDP (Constant Prices, Annual % Change) 4.92.63.63.22.7
GDP per Capita (USD) 28,78228,26228,87629,33729,796
General Government Gross Debt (in % of GDP) 116.9124.6126.0128.7131.8
Inflation Rate (%) 3.60.11.41.82.1
Unemployment Rate (% of the Labour Force) 7.70.00.00.00.0
Current Account (billions USD) 6.842.833.242.581.67
Current Account (in % of GDP) 15.46.36.95.33.3

Source: IMF – World Economic Outlook Database , Latest available data

Note: (e) Estimated Data

Main Sectors of Industry

Bahrain counts a labor force of more than 844,000 out of its 1.46 million population. The contribution of agriculture to Bahrain's economy is negligible due to a scarcity of fertile lands, low rainfall, and the small size of the country. In 2022, its share of the GDP was 0.3% - one of the lowest shares in the world - and employed 1% of the labor force (World Bank, latest data available). Date palm cultivation and the pearl industry used to account for a considerable share of the economy prior to the development of the oil industry. As per the Ministry of Municipalities Affairs and Agriculture, there was a significant increase of 36% in agricultural production in the nation, with output reaching almost 13,000 tonnes in 2022 compared to 2015 figures. This growth can be credited to various factors such as the expansion of greenhouses, a larger workforce, and improvements in agricultural techniques.

Employment in industry amounts to 35% of the workforce, a rate that has been stable since 2010. The share of the primary sector in the national economy stands at 47.9% (World Bank), and revolves around aluminum, petrochemicals, and food processing. The Alba aluminum shelter is one of the largest in the world, producing more than 2% of global output and 15% of Bahrain's GDP (NBK Bahrain). Overall, the manufacturing sector is estimated to account for one-fourth of GDP, while oil rents cumulate 10.9% (World Bank). As a small non-OPEC Gulf oil producer with around 124.6 million barrels of proven reserves, Bahrain derives its oil revenues from two fields: the onshore Bahrain field and the offshore Abu Safah field, which it shares with Saudi Arabia.

The services sector employs 64% of the workforce, a rate that has declined since the early 2000s, and accounts for 47.9% of the economy (World Bank). Bahrain's financial sector plays a preeminent role among Gulf countries and contributes significantly to the local economy: the financial corporations are one of the largest non-oil sectors contributing to the real GDP by 18.08% (official governmental figure). The banking sector includes 30 retail banks (13 locally and incorporated and 17 foreign banks’ branches), 61 wholesale banks, and 8 representative offices of overseas banks (data Bahrain Association of Banks). Other major services sectors include telecommunications and transportation. Tourism is another important sector of the economy, and the country attracts almost 10 times its resident population in a given year.

 
Breakdown of Economic Activity By Sector Agriculture Industry Services
Employment By Sector (in % of Total Employment) 1.0 34.9 64.1
Value Added (in % of GDP) 0.3 47.9 47.9
Value Added (Annual % Change) 4.4 1.2 4.9

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 

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Monetary Indicators 20152016201720182019
Baraini Dinar (BHD) - Average Annual Exchange Rate For 1 MUR 0.010.010.010.010.01

Source: World Bank - Latest available data.

 
 

Find out all the exchange rates daily on our service Currency Converter.

Indicator of Economic Freedom

Definition:

The Economic freedom index measure ten components of economic freedom, grouped into four broad categories or pillars of economic freedom: Rule of Law (property rights, freedom from corruption); Limited Government (fiscal freedom, government spending); Regulatory Efficiency (business freedom, labour freedom, monetary freedom); and Open Markets (trade freedom, investment freedom, financial freedom). Each of the freedoms within these four broad categories is individually scored on a scale of 0 to 100. A country’s overall economic freedom score is a simple average of its scores on the 10 individual freedoms.

Score:
69,9/100
World Rank:
40
Regional Rank:
4

Economic freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Index of Economic Freedom, Heritage Foundation

 

Business environment ranking

Definition:

The business rankings model measures the quality or attractiveness of the business environment in the 82 countries covered by The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Country Forecast reports. It examines ten separate criteria or categories, covering the political environment, the macroeconomic environment, market opportunities, policy towards free enterprise and competition, policy towards foreign investment, foreign trade and exchange controls, taxes, financing, the labour market and infrastructure.

Score:
6.75/10
World Rank:
41/82

Source: The Economist Intelligence Unit - Business Environment Rankings 2021-2025

 

Country Risk

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Foreign Trade in Figures

Bahrain's market constitutes one of the most diversified economies in the region. The country is very open to foreign trade, which accounts for around 160% of the GDP (World Bank, latest data available). Bahrain has a strong steel and aluminum industry: unwrought aluminum alloys emerged as the leading exports in 2023, totaling BHD 1.059 billion (27%), trailed by agglomerated iron ores and concentrates alloyed at BHD 689 million (18%), and non-alloyed aluminum wire ranking third with BHD 223 million (6%). As per imports, non-agglomerated iron ores and concentrates alloyed emerged as the top product imported to Bahrain, with a total value of BHD 602 million (10%). Following closely, other aluminum oxide ranked second at BHD 448 million (8%), while gold ingots secured the third position with BHD 221 million (4% - data Information & eGovernment Authority).

Overall, the country has a structural trade surplus. In 2023, China held the top position for imports to Bahrain, totaling BHD 808 million (14%), followed by the United Arab Emirates in second place with BHD 547 million (9.5%), and Brazil ranking third with BHD 523 million (9%). On the other hand, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia secured the top rank among countries for the exports of products with national origin, totaling BHD 937 million (24%). Following closely, the United Arab Emirates ranked second with BHD 444 million (11%), while the United States of America held the third position with BHD 371 million (9% - data Information & eGovernment Authority).
As per governmental data, the value of imports has decreased by 1%, reaching BHD 5.778 billion during 2023, compared to BHD 5.842 billion in 2022. Conversely, the value of exports of products with national origin marked a decrease by 21% to BHD 3.909 billion during 2023, compared to BHD 4.967 billion in 2022. As per services, the latest data available from WTO show that exports stood at USD 11.5 billion in 2022, against USD 8.5 billion in imports.

 
Foreign Trade Indicators 20192020202120222023
Imports of Goods (million USD) 13,25612,68314,18815,53715,367
Exports of Goods (million USD) 18,12014,06622,36930,19425,235
Imports of Services (million USD) 8,0839,26310,2898,582n/a
Exports of Services (million USD) 11,76511,49713,22511,571n/a
Imports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) -5.6-0.715.2n/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (Annual % Change) 0.4-2.529.5n/an/a
Imports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 65.267.370.2n/an/a
Exports of Goods and Services (in % of GDP) 76.572.989.6n/an/a
Foreign Trade (in % of GDP) 141.7140.2159.8n/an/a

Source: WTO – World Trade Organisation ; World Bank , Latest Available Data

 

Main Partner Countries

Main Customers
(% of Exports)
2022
Saudi Arabia 13.7%
United States 8.6%
United Arab Emirates 7.4%
Netherlands 3.5%
Oman 2.9%
See More Countries 63.9%
Main Suppliers
(% of Imports)
2022
China 14.5%
Brazil 10.6%
Australia 8.7%
United Arab Emirates 8.3%
United States 6.5%
See More Countries 51.5%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

Main Products

22.3 bn USD of products exported in 2022
Unwrought aluminiumUnwrought aluminium 23.9%
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 9.7%
Aluminium wire (excl. stranded wire, cables,...Aluminium wire (excl. stranded wire, cables, plaited bands and the like and other articles of heading 7614, electrically insulated wires, and strings for musical instruments) 3.2%
Plates, sheets and strip, of aluminium, of a...Plates, sheets and strip, of aluminium, of a thickness of > 0,2 mm (excl. expanded plates, sheets and strip) 2.2%
Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (excl....Mineral or chemical nitrogenous fertilisers (excl. those in pellet or similar forms, or in packages with a gross weight of <= 10 kg) 1.9%
See More Products 59.2%
15.5 bn USD of products imported in 2022
Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron...Iron ores and concentrates, incl. roasted iron pyrites 12.0%
Artificial corundum, whether or not chemically...Artificial corundum, whether or not chemically defined; aluminium oxide; aluminium hydroxide 8.0%
Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally...Motor cars and other motor vehicles principally designed for the transport of persons, incl. station wagons and racing cars (excl. motor vehicles of heading 8702) 4.8%
Parts suitable for use solely or principally with...Parts suitable for use solely or principally with internal combustion piston engine of heading 8407 or 8408 3.1%
Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought...Gold, incl. gold plated with platinum, unwrought or not further worked than semi-manufactured or in powder form 2.6%
See More Products 69.6%

Source: Comtrade, Latest Available Data

 
 

To go further, check out our service Import-Export Flows.

 

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Sources of General Economic Information

Ministries
Ministry of Finance and National Economy
National Oil and Gas Authority
Statistical Office
Bahrain Open Data Portal
Central Bank
Central Bank of Bahrain
Stock Exchange
Bahrain Bourse
Search Engines
Google Bahrain
Economic Portals
Arabian Business

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Political Outline

Current Political Leaders
King: Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (since March 1999)
Prime minister: Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa (since 11 November 2020).
Next Election Dates
Parliamentary and municipal elections: 2026
Main Political Parties
Athough official political parties are illegal, the government authorises political societies and associations. Progovernmental societies include: The Al-Asalah Islamic Society, main Sunni Salafist political party in Bahrain, Minbar (Sunni Muslim Brothers), the Al Mustaqbal coalition; oppositional forces include Al-Wifaq (Shia), Democratic Action and Haq (Shia).
Type of State
Kingdom, constitutional monarchy.
Executive Power
The executive power in Bahrain is vested in the King, who appoints the Prime Minister and Cabinet, while the Prime Minister oversees the government's day-to-day operations and administration.
King Hamas bin Isa Al Khalifa has been the head of the state since March 1999. Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, his eldest son, has been the prime minister since 11 November 2020 and is the head of the Council of Ministers.
Legislative Power
The legislative power belongs to the bicameral National Assembly, which consists of an elected Council of Representatives (40 seats) and the Consultative Council (Shure, 40 seats), whose members are appointed by the King.
 

Indicator of Freedom of the Press

Definition:

The world rankings, published annually, measures violations of press freedom worldwide. It reflects the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, the media and digital citizens of each country and the means used by states to respect and uphold this freedom. Finally, a note and a position are assigned to each country. To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders (RWB) prepared a questionnaire incorporating the main criteria (44 in total) to assess the situation of press freedom in a given country. This questionnaire was sent to partner organisations,150 RWB correspondents, journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It includes every kind of direct attacks against journalists and digital citizens (murders, imprisonment, assault, threats, etc.) or against the media (censorship, confiscation, searches and harassment etc.).

World Rank:
168/180
 

Indicator of Political Freedom

Definition:

The Indicator of Political Freedom provides an annual evaluation of the state of freedom in a country as experienced by individuals. The survey measures freedom according to two broad categories: political rights and civil liberties. The ratings process is based on a checklist of 10 political rights questions (on Electoral Process, Political Pluralism and Participation, Functioning of Government) and 15 civil liberties questions (on Freedom of Expression, Belief, Associational and Organizational Rights, Rule of Law, Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights). Scores are awarded to each of these questions on a scale of 0 to 4, where a score of 0 represents the smallest degree and 4 the greatest degree of rights or liberties present. The total score awarded to the political rights and civil liberties checklist determines the political rights and civil liberties rating. Each rating of 1 through 7, with 1 representing the highest and 7 the lowest level of freedom, corresponds to a range of total scores.

Ranking:
Not Free
Political Freedom:
7/7

Political freedom in the world (interactive map)
Source: Freedom in the World Report, Freedom House

 

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COVID-19 Country Response

Travel restrictions
Regularly updated travel information for all countries with regards to Covid-19 related entry regulations, flight bans, test and vaccines requirements is available on TravelDoc Infopage.
To find information about the current travel regulations, including health requirements, it is also advised to consult Travel Regulations Map provided and updated on a daily basis by IATA.
Import & export restrictions
A general overview of trade restrictions which were adopted by different countries during the COVID-19 pandemic is available on the International Trade Centre's COVID-19 Temporary Trade Measures webpage.
Economic recovery plan
For the general overview of the key economic policy responses to the COVID-19 pandemic (fiscal, monetary and macroeconomic) undertaken by the Bahrain government, please consult the country's dedicated section in the IMF’s Policy Tracker platform.
Support plan for businesses
For an evaluation of impact of the Covid pandemic on SMEs and an inventory of country responses to foster SME resilience, refer to the OECD's SME Covid-19 Policy Responses document.
You can also consult the World Bank's Map of SME-Support Measures in Response to COVID-19.

 

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Latest Update: April 2024