Page 1 of 5
Interview with Dr. Hassan A. Fakhro, Bahrain Minister of Industry & Trade
What does the future hold for Bahrain ?
First let me say that Bahrain is a democracy, with a bi-cameral Parliament and with a number of political parties, operating under a Constitutional Monarchy with a Constitution backed by the people as a result of the National Action Charter.
Since embarking on the process of constitutional, economic and
Vision 2030 goals are demanding, but most defiantly achievable, and in order to achieve those goals we have a road map in the form of the National Economic Strategy (NES), which is intended to get us to where we want to be.
social reforms some 10 years ago, a significant amount of progress has been achieved, however some political parties would like to see that progress enhanced at all levels, and accordingly had embarked on, what were at first peaceful demonstrations, to draw attention to their demands, and to which His Majesty King Hamad Al-Khalifa, had responded, with a call for an immediate and genuine dialogue.
It is with much regret that what started as being a peaceful expression of views, actions which are fully supported by the Bahrain Constitution, rapidly deteriorated as the peaceful demonstrations were hijacked by certain groups of demonstrators into violent and criminal acts perpetrated against the State following directions from foreign powers, with a view to inciting sectarian tension and bringing chaos to the economy and society in general.
The swift action taken by the His Majesty in declaring a State of Safety, in order to restore calm, and the invitation to the GCC forces to assist in protecting Bahrain’s borders and sensitive economic installations and to suppress violent demonstrations, in accordance with the GCC agreement, in thwarting any aggression by foreign elements, has not only brought peace, confidence and security back to the nation, but has also somehow invigorated all sections of society and strengthened a feeling of solidarity amongst the people, and against those few individuals and groups who attempted to overthrow the legitimate rule of the nation.
His Majesty the King has issued a Royal Decree which will end the State of Safety from June 1st 2011, and I have no doubt at all that what will ensue from thereon in , is getting back to normal PLUS. Our economy is already back on track, although there is still someway to go in terms of rejuvenating the tourism and associated retail sectors, which has quite naturally been effected by the events of the past few months. Nevertheless as various foreign Embassies downplay their travel advisories, and the Bahrain Saudi Causeway traffic gets back to normal, and hopefully our Formula One event gets re-scheduled, I would expect that we will close out the year on a much brighter note in this regard.
In all other respects, the economy is robust; the banking sector is largely unaffected, we are issuing new commercial and industrial licenses by the day, and in general I can say that there is a sense of optimism for a bright future, in which the Government’s economic development plans under Visions 2030, will play a vital role in stimulating growth and achieving the aspirations of all Bahrainis.
How do you respond to the critics of Bahrain ?
How much easier it is to be critical than correct (Disaeli). I would ask those who would criticize Bahrain, to look to their own countries before ruminating on the situation in Bahrain, and without having full factual knowledge of our present history and the events which have occurred since February of this year.
Bahrain, as a developing country, has an enviable record in promoting the education and welfare of its people; we have achieved the highest literacy rate in the region, our people have access to free education, free healthcare and a social security net which provide unemployment benefit.
We recognize that there are those who are challenged either educationally or in some other way, there are under-achievers and social drop-outs, who for one reason or another are unable or unwilling to participate in the economy, and for those the Government has embarked on numerous assistance programs.
However, on the other hand we have created a high-value added banking and financial services industry in which Bahrainis represent over 70% of the employees. Our national flagship industries are staffed primarily by Bahrainis, and we have embarked on labor reforms, that promote the concept of the Bahraini as the employee of choice.
Bahrain has a Gross Domestic Product Per capita of over US$ 40,000, we have the highest productivity and literacy rate in the region, and we have a fully inclusive society in which women play a leading role in public life and popular elections. In short Bahrain is a modern country, with far-sighted economic and social policies, a cosmopolitan welcoming environment, and a deep respect for the rule of law and the legitimate rights of its people.
There have been some recent statements made in the media by those who are attempting to tarnish Bahrain’s human rights record, using lies and fabrications in an attempt to derail the Kingdom from its path of development. However, I am sure that the truth will out, and that there are so many more who are aware of the real facts and know the real situation in Bahrain, that will exonerate all actions taken by the Bahrain authorities to restore peace and calm against a background of action by foreign backed rioters, which resulted in those criminal elements hijacking the main arterial roads, the main business district, the occupation of the central hospital, attacks to the University and violence against expatriates and members of the police force.
Perpetrators of these crimes against the State are now the subject of due legal process, but with their full human rights being protected under the Constitution; those that have had bad intentions against the nation are now known, and I would say that so are the nation’s ‘fair-weather’ friends.