Forbes: Bahrain Economy Set For Further Slump Following Renewed Political Clampdown

2016-06-16 - 9:04 p

Bahrain Mirror: The economic Forbes magazine said the unexpected closure of the main opposition party Al-Wefaq and seizure of its funds is likely to spell further trouble for the Gulf island's economy.

The magazine added that Bahrain used to have a thriving business sector. Indeed, until the rise of Dubai, it was considered the pre-eminent financial hub for the region. Today it is a place that international businesses tend to avoid.

In a report on the country issued on June 10, ratings agency Standard & Poor's said there had been a net outflow of foreign direct investment of 6% of GDP last year and the banking system has shrunk by 25% since 2008

Forbes noted the economy of Bahrain has been repeatedly downgraded by the main ratings agencies over the past couple of years, taking it into junk status. With oil revenues sliding, but with high spending commitments to maintain, the government has had to resort to issuing debt and leaning on its richer Gulf neighbours for support.

Even before the latest clampdown, the outlook was already rather bleak. "Earlier this month the World Bank cut its forecast for GDP growth this year to 2.2%, compared to the 2.7% it had predicted in January. The economy is set to slow further in the following years, with the World Bank forecasting growth of 2% in 2017 and 1.9% in 2018," it further stated.

"repression, and with it the likelihood of further protests, means the country will become even less appealing as a place to do business." The issue in Bahrain "is not simply a sectarian issue, and pro-democracy protesters have been drawn from both Sunni and Shia segments of society," it said, adding that the decision came a day after Bahrain had been the subject of strong criticism from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Forbes further stated that "although the shutdown of Al-Wefaq was unexpected, it follows a series of worrying decision by the authorities in recent days," referring to the arrest of prominent human rights defender Nabeel Rajab a day earlier, the president of the Bahrain Commission for Human Rights, Nabeel Rajab, increasing the jail term sentence of opposition leader Sheikh Ali Salman and fleeing of human rights activist Zainab Al-Khawaja after threats.

The closure of Al Wefaq has set off another round of criticism from human rights groups and Bahrain's allies alike. The Bahrain Justice and Development Movement said: "This move is aimed at criminalising all opposition in Bahrain. It sends a clear signal, that no matter how moderate or compliant with rules an organisation is, if it criticises the government, it is illegal."

In an unusually strong language, a US State Department spokesman said "We are deeply troubled by today's alarming move... and we urge Bahraini officials to reconsider this decision." However, according to Forbes, it remains unclear how much leverage the US and other Western allies really have on Bahrain and how much pressure they will be willing to put on its government.

Arabic Version


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