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Session Summaries

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Session Summaries

10-May-2018

Transport and Public Works - Session Summary

  • Bahrain is implementing an ambitious agenda of infrastructure development.
  • The country plans to use public-private partnerships (PPPs) that generally involve concessions.
  • Officials intend to reduce the risk for private-sector investment.

10-May-2018

The GCC Tech Landscape: The Sighting of Opportunities and Potential Pitfalls - Session Summary

  • Digital transformation must be part of the economic transition underway in the GCC.
  • Asian markets share traits with the GCC and can serve as references for the region’s journey.
  • As digital transformation requires innovation across an economy, businesses and sectors need to collaborate, and governments must primarily communicate the vision.
  • Entrepreneurship must reverse its negative image and could use local ambassadors to promote its benefits.

10-May-2018

Regulatory Issues and Ease of Doing Business Across the GCC - Session Summary

  • The Bahraini government is removing itself from business to limit its role to that of a regulator and facilitator.
  • Everyone is treated equally under the laws of Bahrain.
  • Bahrain has an open and progressive worker visa policy, which gives it access to an unlimited talent pool.

10-May-2018

Country Investment Lunch – Kuwait - Session Summary

  • The Kuwaiti government created the Kuwait Direct Investment Promotion Authority (KDIPA) to increase private-sector involvement in the economy.
  • The country has initiated 30 megaprojects in nine sectors and has five more in the pipeline.
  • The KDIPA has created a major free zone and a major economic zone, each in three locations.

10-May-2018

Investment Outlook for the GCC - Session Summary

  • The GCC’s investment outlook reflects the changing role of the region’s governments from ‘operators’ to ‘facilitators’.
  • This change offers significant new opportunities for public-private partnerships, particularly in the construction sector.
  • When making decisions, investors need to consider the localisation requirements, governments’ strategic priorities and the potential for co-investment with sovereign wealth funds.

10-May-2018

The Future of Technology Investment - Session Summary

  • Megafunds are bad for start-ups because too much money too soon stifles innovation and reduces discipline.
  • The “next big thing” usually comes from where it is least expected.
  • Venture capitalists base investments more on a start-up’s people than on other factors.
  • Silicon Valley and the United States benefit from a culture that allows people to fail and reinvent themselves.
  • The pre-eminence of Silicon Valley and the United States in technology may be threatened by the country’s new direction on immigration policy.

10-May-2018

Investing in a Challenging World - Session Summary

  • A long-term, disciplined approach to investing is still critical in this era of fast-paced news cycles.
  • Taking risk into account is part of investment decision-making, but overreacting in the short term is counter-productive.
  • Good corporate governance and transparency are key criteria for deciding where to invest.

10-May-2018

Special Real Estate Projects - Session Summary

  • Bahrain is looking for investors for two unique real estate projects, Diyar Al Muharraq and Water Garden City. 
  • Bahrain’s real estate sector is the most stable in the GCC, and the real estate law that came into effect in March 2018 offers unprecedented ownership and investment opportunities to foreigners.
  • The real estate sector generally follows the direction of the overall economy – as manufacturing, tourism and other sectors develop, so does real estate.
  • The changes afoot in Saudi Arabia will have positive spillovers for Bahrain’s real estate sector by propelling economic activity across the region.

10-May-2018

Introducing the Saudi FDI Landscape - Session Summary

  • Saudi Arabia, the largest economy in the region, has the second best performing stock market in the world; with 15% of world trade running through the Arabian Sea, the country is a well-placed FDI destination.
  • Saudi Arabia is reforming its institutions in conjunction with its Vision 2030, aiming to be the regional leader in ease of doing business in 2020.
  • Saudi Arabia will soon launch “Invest Atlas”, which outlines all investment opportunities in all sectors.
  • NEOM, the country’s ambitious new city at the heart of Saudi Arabia’s development plans, is attracting overwhelming interest from potential partners.
  • NEOM will have two types of funds: one for development (infrastructure) and one for investments (partnering with firms and investing in start-ups).

10-May-2018

The New World of Finance: Fintech, Blockchain and More - Session Summary

  • Central banks around the world agree on the need to regulate emerging financial technologies and cryptocurrencies.
  • Many businesses support this view in the belief that it will infuse trust into the system and protect people’s money.
  • Central banks need not regulate financial technologies per se, but their application.
  • GCC countries, given their small populations, should aim for region-wide regulatory frameworks that enable technologies and businesses to operate seamlessly.

10-May-2018

New Discoveries, New Potential: The Oil Story - Session Summary

  • Bahrain’s biggest-ever discovery of tight oil and deep gas resources is cause for great optimism.
  • Exploitation of these resources, which fall into the ‘unconventionals’ category, will draw on new technologies that have emerged with the recent shale revolution.
  • It is unusual for investors to have access to opportunities in upstream as well as downstream projects on such a large scale.

09-May-2018

MENA Tech Ecosystems - Session Summary

  • No single city, country or region will emerge as MENA’s Silicon Valley; instead entrepreneurs, investors and other actors should look at the region as a whole.
  • Useful comparisons of the MENA tech ecosystems’ current state of development may be with Silicon Valley several decades ago or South-Est Asia a few years ago.
  • Gulf countries have an advantage because all actors, from regulators to entrepreneurs and beyond, are pushing in the same direction.
  • FDI will be secondary; investment must come first and primarily from within the region.
  • MENA entrepreneurs could lead the way in attempting to solve emerging-market problems.
  • Bahrain can position itself as a test market for entrepreneurs from places like Egypt and Lebanon to enter the GCC market.
  • The educational systems of the region’s countries must abandon rote learning in favour of softer skills that encourage creativity and innovation.

09-May-2018

Belt and Road: Chinese Plan – Arab Opportunity to Reshape the 21st Century Economy - Session Summary

  • The private sector has vast opportunities to tap into the markets being made and remade by the Belt and Road Initiative, including in infrastructure, data, 3D printing, logistics and commodities.
  • The initiative has been successful in small and mid-sized economies, but is struggling in larger countries such as India.
  • Connectivity is core to the initiative, including in trade, services, infrastructure, telecommunications and data.
  • The initiative is having a profound impact on commodity prices, and thus on the GCC as a main exporter of commodities to China.
  • While data is a large and growing force in the activities of the initiative, its use and related privacy issues are less of a concern in the GCC than in the United States and Europe.

09-May-2018

Power and Renewable Energy - Session Summary

  • With increasingly attractive economics and new technological developments, renewable energy is becoming a reality in the GCC.
  • The region’s governments must nevertheless overcome regulatory, infrastructure and financing challenges.
  • Bahrain has ambitious goals for renewables and energy efficiency, as well as for the power sector.
  • Establishing renewables is not necessarily about getting the money for investment; it is about having a stable, long-term plan for the future.

09-May-2018

Affordable Housing - Session Summary

  • Investors are sought for investment-ready projects for affordable housing in Bahrain.
  • One estimate is that profit margins will be in the region of 12%, based on strong demand given the current shortage of affordable housing.
  • In addition to offering a financial return on investment, affordable housing also offers wider social benefits.

09-May-2018

Saudi Arabia, an investment destination - Session Summary

  • Saudi Arabia is committed to developing its investment and business environment.
  • The digitisation of records and procedures is reducing the time it takes to obtain various permissions and licenses, making it easier to do business.
  • The Tayseer programme also aims to make it easier for businesses to get licenses, access finance, and foster technology and innovation.

09-May-2018

Workshop: Support for Innovation and SMEs - Session Summary

  • As engines of job creation and innovation, SMEs must be encouraged so GCC countries can successfully transition to diversified, 21st century economies.
  • Governments must provide conducive legislative and regulatory cues on a range of issues, including labour, bankruptcy and the establishment and exiting of businesses.
  • Many challenges facing SMEs are cultural – the stigma around failure, for instance – but policy can pave the way towards changing cultural mindsets.
  • Some issues, such as upskilling and capacity building, are generational; with early steps already taken, they will begin to show results in a few years.
  • GCC countries could do more in terms of providing ownership and citizenship rights to attract talent from other countries.

09-May-2018

Unlocking the FDI Puzzle – Matching Investor Expectations - Session Summary

  • To attract foreign direct investment (FDI), a country must establish an ecosystem that supports private-sector involvement.
  • The size and openness of its domestic and regional markets are further attractions for FDI.
  • In the different elements of the FDI puzzle, the Gulf region has reached an important inflection point.
  • Investors in the Gulf region are looking for a well-trained white-collar as well as blue-collar workforce.

09-May-2018

Real Estate & Tourism - Session Summary

  • Real estate development and often-related tourism investments loom as increasingly large elements of economic growth and diversity in Bahrain and the region.
  • Improved regulation should help stabilise the real estate market.
  • Bahrain’s 2016 tourism strategy is already reaping dividends.
  • Planned beach resorts are designed to transform Bahrain’s reputation as a beach-less island.
  • Bahrain has a strong chance to serve as a homeport for the cruise industry.

09-May-2018

Oil & Gas - Session Summary

  • Bahrain is setting up the Bahrain Energy Fund Limited Partnership, a $1 billion fund focusing on seven main projects that will further grow its economy.  
  • The decline in oil prices has pushed government-related entities to move away from using government funds to finance oil and gas development in favour of tapping capital markets.
  • Privatisation of the oil and gas sector in the GCC is bringing in greater transparency, accountability and sustainability.

09-May-2018

Future Flash: The Power of the Cloud - Session Summary

  • The Cloud is a key element in sweeping technological changes on which Bahrain is keen to capitalise. The Kingdom has energetically supported a major inward investment by Amazon.
  • As part of maximising Cloud-related opportunities, investors can gain outsized investment returns by engaging with amazing tech start-ups in the Gulf region.
  • The shift of business processes to the Cloud is taking place at the same time as Gulf governments transition from being 'operators' to 'facilitators', which will open up commercial opportunities for Cloud-based service providers.

09-May-2018

Aligning Fiscal Policy with Economic Growth - Session Summary

  • Fiscal discipline and economic growth can work together provided the impact of consolidation is compensated for by investment, especially in new areas.
  • Finance ministries are realising they need to go beyond thinking about funding to becoming solutions ministries.
  • While growth is nearly always important, engineering reforms and saving in the right periods are critical for long-term growth.
  • Governments can’t necessarily take risks with money but can create an ecosystem making it easier to invest.
  • Diversification, with its push to increase non-oil income, reflects the GCC’s orientation towards the future.

09-May-2018

A New Gulf Paradigm - Session Summary

  • Governments across the GCC are actively privatising key sectors of their economies, getting out of business and restricting their role to regulating and enabling the private sector.
  • Despite periodic new oil and gas discoveries, such as the recent one in Bahrain, governments are determined to diversify their economies in the long-term interest of their young populations.
  • The process of diversification and privatisation is sometimes slow, for cultural and legal reasons and because governments are cautiously putting into place suitable regulatory frameworks.
  • The private sector must rise to the occasion and get used to operating more independently, without relying on subsidies and tax breaks as has been the long-standing practice in GCC countries.

30-Nov--0001

Building the Future of the GCC - Session Summary

  • As they take forward the development of the GCC, young leaders are looking for institutions to live out in practice the ethos behind new laws and approaches.
  • If an entrepreneurial approach is truly to become a reality, an understanding that it is acceptable to take risks, to fail and then to start over is essential.
  • Individuals must be more open to lifelong learning and regular retraining in order to adapt to rapid changes in the GCC.