Interview: Sameer Nass

In what ways has the growth of public-private partnerships (PPPs) restructured Bahrain’s economy?

SAMEER NASS: Bahrain has come a long way in the development of the private sector as a key partner to the public sector. When King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa started implementing a reform programme, the Bahrain Economic Development Board and Tamkeen, the national labour fund, were established to work hand-in-hand with the BCCI and other partners to build the private sector on a solid and sustainable foundation.

Since then the private sector has distinguished itself with innovation and a high standard of services and operation. It has also become the main partner and source of financing to major projects and services that have been freed from the central authority.

We have implemented PPP initiatives in the industrial, food, education, training, ICT and tourism sectors. We are keen to accelerate this progression through the legal framework in order to facilitate contractual process and reduce the proportion of potential risks.

What approach does BCCI take towards the preparation and promulgation of new laws and rules?

NASS: Bahrain has been recognised for taking the lead regionally and globally in terms of economic liberalisation and financial growth. The government is keen to regulate the economy through a platform of legislation, both to stimulate the economic sectors and to attract international investment. Bahrain has issued modern laws that are the first of their kind in the Gulf, such as the Investments Limited Partnership law, the Trusts Law and the Protected Cell Companies Law. These laws set the rules for the establishment and operation of investment funds and grant them a flexible framework to enhance their competitiveness, in order to meet the needs of financial institutions and investors in developing their services and banking products.

Among the laws passed in 2018, the Personal Data Protection Law gives a powerful boost to trade and digital exchange; the Competition Law contests monopolies and regulates market competitiveness; and the Bankruptcy Law provides advanced management of operations pertaining to bankruptcy, especially for small and medium-sized enterprises.

We work as a key partner with all the official authorities, starting with the executive branch and Parliament. Our legal counsellors work to ensure that all laws and regulations fully accord in all respects with the interests of the private sector. We achieved significant success with Ministerial Edict No. 130/2016 on commercial registration (CR), negotiating extensively with the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism until we were able to reduce the CR fees, using wide-ranging studies and comparative models with other countries in the region. We are also working to develop a regulatory framework for a value-added tax law that relates to private sector liabilities, while there are several other laws that we are still studying with our government partners.

How does the BCCI’s new sector classification reflect changes in the economy, and which sectors are most promising in the short to medium term?

NASS: The committees are the driving force behind the implementation of BCCI’s strategy. Following extensive studies, we managed to consolidate the number of committees from 24 to 10, which include leading businessmen and specialists who will spur the change. The main purpose of these committees is to keep up with economic changes at the local and regional levels through projects that develop each sector and expand their perspectives to traders and investors. We are bidding farewell to a state that has been dependent on oil and are moving towards a diversified economy characterised by quality, innovation and modern solutions, which we are adopting as indicators to evaluate the performance of these committees. We are looking forward particularly to the evolution of the finance, education, health, tourism, energy and logistics sectors.