Change will bring opportunities in Bahrain

25 January 2008

Government officials are opposing economic reform in Bahrain, but King Hamad must push ahead.

By introducing democratic reforms in 2002, King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa has inevitably opened up the government to criticism from opposition parties.

The National Assembly can discuss the alleged corruption of officials, accuse the police of human rights abuses and debate laws as the general public watches.

Such openness is welcome. But economic reform, with greater liberalisation and competition within business sectors, and opportunities for all nationals to win jobs on merit, are needed to build on this.

But just as some government officials resisted reform of the democratic process, some are resisting the efforts of the king’s son and head of the Economic Development Board, Crown Prince Sheikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, to pursue an economic reform agenda. These reforms, which include offering better opportunities in education, training and employment to nationals, are the best course of action for Bahrain as it seeks to overcome social tensions and boost its position in the global economy.

In an open letter to the king in January, the crown prince complained that some government officials were making it difficult to implement his reform programme.

The king’s response to the letter was to remind ministers that they can be replaced if they do not support the reforms. Those that do will benefit from promotion.

His clear stance on the issue is encouraging to all those pushing for change.

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