Surely part of the excitement of working overseas is the sheer differences to be found on a daily basis, whether that be in terms of the business attitude routinely encountered, the exoticness of the culture and food, or even the predictability of the weather. And, yes, the increase in salary which often accompanies a move to foreign climes is another major incentive.
In particular, the Middle East has proved a popular hunting ground for Western workers looking to make some spectacular bucks and at the same time enhance their opportunities and embellish their CVs. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain spring readily to mind, not only as increasingly popular holiday destinations, but as countries with vibrant expat communities from many corners of the world. Such expat communities, of Americans, Brits, Australians and citizens from dozens of other countries, continue to grow.
Billion-dollar spending plans
The Kingdom of Bahrain, often held up as a model open society, with many of its cultural values recognisable in most Western countries, is surely a case in point. The Persian Gulf country, an island of some 34 miles in length and 11 miles wide, is about to embark on a spectacular $22 billion worth of infrastructure spending over the next four years. The move, announced by Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister of Transportation and acting chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), is bound to attract a huge wave of expat interest.
The spending, aimed at a range of sectors including tourism, will also help boost the national economy and increase regional competitiveness as well as providing opportunities for Bahrain’s own citizens.
The projects include the Bahrain International Airport modernisation project, the development of Al-Jazair Beach, investment projects in Durrat Al-Bahrain, expansion of the Aluminium Bahrain (ALBA) smelter, and the modernisation project being carried out by Bahrain Petroleum Company (Bapco), as well as other projects. Government organisations, and Mumtalakat Holding Company in particular, will play a major role in the implementation of key projects.
The Minister added, “These are important investments that promise opportunities to international investors as well as strengthening connectivity with the region. The infrastructure projects are part of a wider effort by the Kingdom, which aim at diversifying the economy, as well as drawing quality investment, in order to support long term sustainable growth, create quality job opportunities, and increase the standards of living. This comes as part of Bahrain’s upcoming economic strategy, under the guidance of His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, the Crown Prince, First Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the EDB.”
Bahrain’s open investment policies have helped the country establish itself as the freest economy in the region, according to the Heritage Foundation’s 2014 Index of Economic Freedom.
Reflecting this success, the UNCTAD World Investment Report 2014 confirmed that total foreign direct investment into Bahrain last year was $989 million, an increase of 11% on 2012, outpacing global average growth of 9%.
Likewise, the recent implementation of a new visa policy now means fewer restrictions and easier access to the Kingdom for more than sixty additional countries. In addition to 36 countries now eligible for e-visa applications, residents from a further 60 countries will also now be able to apply for a visa on arrival.
Find out more about Bahrain here.