The caravan moves on — while markets like China and India took the spotlight during the last years, the Middle East is about to tap into its industrial resources. Major plant projects boom in states like Bahrain. Now wonder that the country was able to attract companies like BASF, Siemens, DHL and many others …
The air shimmers over the desert sands — no birds, no gusts of wind disturb the stillness. At 104° Fahrenheit, even lizards and scorpions seek cover beneath stones and in holes. Dust, sands and pebbles are all around. The only sign of life is the monotonous swaying of the pump jacks — a steady mechanical ballet. With each stroke a typical pump lifts between five and fifty liter of oil and water. In 2011, some 1.3 billion liters of crude where produced this way around the Persian Gulf — nearly one third of the world’s total production. But how long will the ‘black gold’ continue to spring in the desert?
“We Invest in Heads” – Structural Change at the Gulf
Whether or not ‘peak oil’, the point at which petroleum production declines despite rising demands, has already been reached or not, is vividly disputed. But the day will come. The gulf state Bahrain is already importing crude oil to feed the huge refineries that were built during the boom. Arabia is buzzing once again. Only this time it is not about Qur’an exegesis or regional disputes. It’s about the transformation of whole societies, away from being a sole producer of raw materials towards a knowledge based service and industrial society.
The conditions are favorable: Low energy prices, flat taxes and a unique position halfway between the ‘Old World’ and the shooting stars of Asia. “We now invest in the heads of our people”, explains Kamal bin Ahmed, Minister for Transportation and CE of the Bahrain Economic Development Board. The country is currently spending huge sums on education, infrastructure and healthcare.
Oil Dollars Help to Build up Infrastructure for Future Development
“Already when Bahrain discovered oil in 1930, we used the profits to build up our infrastructure.” These investments helped to close the gap to the global markets and attract foreign investors alike. “No corporate tax. No VAT. But the best educated workers in the whole region”, bin Ahmed sums up the advantages of his homeland. And there’s more: A foreign investor in Bahrain does not need a local joint venture partner. His product, nevertheless, can be 100 % Bahraini and thus be traded freely in the states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
Saudi Arabia, the region’s biggest market is just half an hour away via the 25 kilometer King Fahd Causeway. Next-door projects like the Sadara JV, one of the largest petrochemical projects, offer excellent perspectives: The region needs engineers, project managers and chemists alike. Also pipings, fittings and automation are in high demand. Polymer and plastic manufacturers need a whole range of admixtures and catalysts. Consequently, the world’s largest manufacturer of chemicals BASF established a production for additives in Bahrain.
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