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Bahrain Country Report

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Risk Level

Low
Moderate
Elevated
High
Very High
Severe
Extreme

Overview

Executive Summary

The Sunni Al Khalifa monarchy's reconciliation with the majority Shia population is unlikely during the coming year, as evidenced by opposition groups' boycott of the two-round 2018 parliamentary and municipal elections on 24 November and 1 December. Only three out of 40 incumbents were re-elected, and the resulting parliamentary inexperience, combined with the lack of opposition, will facilitate the government's push for economic austerity starting with the introduction of a 5% value-added tax (VAT) in January 2019. Saudi and UAE military, financial, and political backing reduces state stability risks emanating from Bahrain's acute sectarian divisions and heavy debt burdens. IHS Markit expects Bahrain to broaden the tax base by implementing individual and/or corporate taxes on non-oil companies. A broader tax base is unlikely to erode Bahrain's competitive position in the region (the ease of doing business index from the World Bank ranked Bahrain second in the region in its 2017 list). Bahrain is the GCC's smallest oil producer, despite the announcement of the discovery of significant offshore fields in 2018. Total external debt is forecast to equal 147% of GDP for 2019 and is expected to remain high during the next four years, with the country likely to struggle to balance its fiscal budget by 2022. The governments of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE agreed to provide Bahrain with USD10 billion in financial aid in October 2018, scheduled via a long-term interest-free loan and almost certainly conditional on Bahrain reducing its government expenditures on social welfare programmes and government wages. Shia militants present a moderate risk to unsecured commercial assets in Manama, such as ATMs, shopping malls, and car dealerships, although successful attacks on assets with perimeter security fences such as the Bahrain Financial Harbour and BAPCO are much less probable. Sitra Island is a hotspot for Shia roadblocks and fighting with security forces. © 2018, IHS Markit Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Last update: December 12, 2018

Operational Outlook

By regional standards, Bahrain offers a relatively streamlined regulatory framework, while also allowing 100% foreign ownership in most sectors. Government tendering processes are relatively opaque and likely to offer preferential treatment to state monopolies and royal family-linked business interests. Organised labour strikes are uncommon and rarely become disruptive.

Last update: October 9, 2018

Terrorism

High

An apparent increase in Iranian material support for Bahraini militants, if confirmed, is likely intended to deter Saudi regional escalation, rather than an indication of impending escalation in the currently low-level insurgency. Crude IED attacks will overwhelmingly remain restricted to areas outside of central Manama. Targeting the majority Shia population is consistent with the Islamic State's ideology and primary target set. An August 2018 recording by the group's caliph, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, urged the population of Bahrain to overthrow its government. The Islamic State's occasional reference to Bahrain's population still shows its intent to radicalise the population and turn it against a monarchy it sees as illegitimate.

Last update: October 9, 2018

War Risks

The main risk to Bahrain emanates from the elevated but growing risk of an Iran-US/Saudi Arabia war, which would pose a severe risk of damage to Bahraini strategic infrastructure from Iranian retaliatory kinetic actions. The US Fifth Fleet in Manama would be a target in such a scenario. There is an elevated risk of minor naval incidents surrounding allegations of Iranian attempts to smuggle weapons to supply Shia militants in Bahrain and undermine the Saudi-backed Al-Khalifa monarchy. Although Iranian media and politicians will likely periodically state territorial claims to Bahrain, this is unlikely to move beyond rhetoric.

Last update: October 9, 2018

Social Stability

Elevated

Opposition groups carry out a variety of activities against the government on a near daily basis. Such activities are likely in Shia districts such as Jidhafs, Karbabad, and Sanabis. These include incendiary attacks on police stations and patrols, roadblocks using burning debris that are usually cleared within several hours, and crude IED attacks at entertainment venues and other soft targets frequented by foreigners. There have been fewer incidents in areas around Palace Avenue in al-Hoora because of the heavy security presence. Bahrain International Airport operations are very unlikely to be disrupted by protests.

Last update: October 9, 2018

Health Risk

Very high

Vaccines Required to Enter the Country

Yellow fever: There is no risk of contracting yellow fever in Bahrain. However, the government requires proof of vaccination for travelers arriving from countries with a risk of yellow fever transmission. A single dose of YF vaccine is sufficient to confer sustained life-long immunity against the disease.

Vaccines Recommended for All Travelers

Routine vaccinations: Consult your doctor to ensure all routine vaccinations - such as for diphtheria, tetanus, polio, tuberculosis, influenza, measles, mumps, pertussis, rubella, varicella, etc. - are up to date (include booster shots if necessary).

Vaccines Recommended for Most Travelers

Hepatitis A: The vaccine is given in two doses, six months apart, and is nearly 100 percent effective. The WHO recommends the vaccine be integrated into national routine immunization schedules for children aged one year or older.

Typhoid fever: The typhoid fever vaccine can be administered via injection (administered in one dose) or orally (four doses). The vaccine is only 50-80 percent effective, so travelers to areas with a risk of exposure to typhoid fever, a bacterial disease, should also take hygienic precautions (e.g. drink only bottled water, avoid undercooked foods, wash hands regularly, etc.). Children can be given the shot beginning at two years of age (six for the oral vaccine).

Vaccines Recommended for Some Travelers

Hepatitis B: The WHO recommends that all infants receive their first dose of vaccine as soon as possible after birth, preferably within 24 hours. The birth dose should be followed by two or three doses to complete the primary series. Routine booster doses are not routinely recommended for any age group.

Rabies: The rabies vaccination is typically only recommended for travel to remote areas and if the traveler will be at high risk of exposure (e.g. undertaking activities that will bring them into contact with dogs, cats, bats, or other mammals). The vaccination is administered in three doses over a three-to-four week period. Post exposure prophylaxis is also available and should be administered as soon as possible following contact with an animal suspected of being infected (e.g. bites and scratches).

Last update: August 22, 2018

Natural Risks

Very high

In terms of weather-related concerns, sand and dust storms, as well as periodic drought, are not uncommon.

During the summer (April to October) temperatures can rise to 50°C with humidity.

In November 2015 the country was hit by flash floods that led to substantial material damage.

Last update: February 13, 2018

Transportation

Elevated

Located off the Dammam coast of Saudi Arabia, the island of Bahrain is connected to Saudi Arabia by a 24 km (15 mi) bridge.

Bahrain's road network is well developed.

Vehicles are driven on the right side of roadways. Only Bahraini and international driving licenses are accepted. The country has strict drunk driving laws. With a "zero tolerance" policy, Bahraini authorities can arrest drivers or levy a fine of more than USD 1067 (EUR 1000) if caught drinking and driving.

Public transportation and taxis are usually safe and reliable. However, some sexual harassment cases have been reported. Uber ridesharing is also well established in the country.

The Bahrain international airport is located 7 km (4 mi) away from Manama and connects Bahrain to many countries. It is considered a hub for the airline company Gulf Air. In January 2016, Bahrain banned flights to and from Iran.

Foggy conditions and sandstorms commonly occur and can disrupt traffic. Bahrain also experiences heavy rains that can lead to flooding.

The government has imposed a curfew in its territorial waters from 18:00 until 04:00 (local time).

Last update: February 13, 2018

Practical Information

Climate

Bahrain is very hot (38°C) and humid from April until October. Sandstorms can strike during the summer months. From November until the end of April, temperatures are mild (18°C in January) but nights are cool. Rain can fall between December and March, sometimes accompanied by strong winds.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +973
Police: 999
Fire Dept.: 999
Ambulance: 999

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

Last update: October 22, 2013