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H.E. Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa, Minister of Finance and National Economy, Kingdom of Bahrain
Bahrain is back!
In 2018 a financial support package valued at $10bn over four years was pledged by Bahrain’s regional peers – Saudi, Kuwait and UAE - known as the Fiscal Balance Programme (FBP). Since the implementation of the FBP under the guidance of the Crown Prince, Minister of Finance and Central Bank Governor, Bahrain’s economy has shown good signs of stabilising and most of the headline indicators are moving firmly in the right direction. The reform efforts have been globally recognised with Bahrain moving up 19 places (to 43rd) in the World Bank’s Doing Business 2020 guide.
The fiscal balance forecasts are substantially different to last quarter, with the full year 2020 deficit now forecast to be only 4.7% of GDP compared with 8.9% at the end of Q2 2019. 2020 GDP numbers have been revised upwards and other key metrics have followed suit. All of this in an environment where the other GCC economies have revised their forecasts downwards.
In November 2019, S&P affirmed Bahrain’s B+ rating with an upward revision on outlook to “positive”. This is good news for Bahrain. Pricing on local sovereign debt has traded in by some 150bps in the past 12 months and now stands at around 4% for 5-year paper and 4.96% for 10-year. In September, Bahrain successfully placed a $2bn issue in at 5.625% for the ten-year international tranche. More supply is to be expected in 2020 and given low rate environment and improving local conditions pricing may be even tighter. For example, BB- rated Bahraini sovereign fund Mumtalakat raised $500m for seven year paper at 4.25% in January – pointed to a further drop in coupon rates for the sovereign when it comes to market.
In 2020, Euromoney Conferences will return to Bahrain to look deeper into the story of its reforms and its economic future. We will consider, in detail, the macro outlook, what the administration’s priorities are for 2020-21, what it will need from the regional and global capital markets and how international investors, financiers and businesses should access Bahrain’s encouraging recovery story.