Manama’s reputation as a centre for business has taken a battering since 14 February, when security forces brutally cracked down on anti-government protests. Since then, things have deteriorated. Many foreign businesses have cut back staff in the country and the economy faces a crippling year as business grinds to a halt.
That will be bad news for more than $24bn worth of transport projects aimed at transforming Bahrain’s infrastructure and linking the GCC states together. The majority of these projects are yet to even start.
The Works Ministry is due to relaunch the prequalification process for the first phase of its light-rail network, but plans to build two new terminals at the airport have now been pushed back indefinitely. Another key project, the $4bn Qatar-Bahrain Causeway still appears to be stalled after having been put on hold nearly a year ago. Ambitious plans to build a railway that will form part of the wider GCC network remain on the drawing board.
Political unrest has played a part in the lack of progress on these projects. Security is now on the top of the government’s priority list rather than development. Unless a political compromise is forthcoming, foreign firms may be reluctant to invest in Bahrain going forward.
The rest of the GCC is moving ahead with the development of its transport infrastructure. If Bahrain cannot do the same, it is in danger of being left behind its Gulf counterparts.