SICO BSC (c), a leading regional asset manager, broker, and investment bank (licensed as a wholesale bank by the CBB), shared insights into Bahrain’s economic and fiscal recovery in a comprehensive report titled Bahrain Special – Between achievements and acceleration towards targets – Feb 2023.The report indicates the tangible progress in Bahrain’s economic recovery plan and fiscal balance.
2022 can be best characterized as a year of acceleration and diligent movement towards crucial targets set for achieving fiscal balance by 2024. Coming out of a pandemic that had its adverse impacts on the economy for the past two years, Bahrain has shown recovery in 2022, and more disciplined spending over the last five years.
Since publishing our report, Bahrain has released its preliminary fiscal numbers for the year 2022 reflecting a deficit of BHD 178mn compared to a deficit of BHD 952mn in 2022. Non-oil revenues were 28% higher YoY crossing BHD 1bn to reach BHD 1.065bn in 2022. This comes mainly because of Bahrain’s VAT hike to 10% in 2022. Both narrowing deficits and higher non-oil revenues reflect what we discuss in the report Bahrain’s diligence in meeting the targets it has set in Fiscal Balance Report. Fiscal discipline and improving non-oil revenues due to the introduction of taxation over the last five years led to narrowing deficits. The government’s prudent management of recurrent expenses translated into a decline in expenditure for two main recurrent categories: the wage-bill and subsidies. Meanwhile, the key challenge for the government remains in managing its debt service cost.
On the other hand, the Kingdom’s real GDP is expected to exceed BD 13 billion in 2022 and 2023 – the highest figure seen in a decade – driven by non-oil GDP growth and greater private sector contribution towards economic activities.
The accelerated economic recovery contributed positively towards lowering the unemployment rate to 5.2% in 2022. Furthermore, narrowing gaps between public and private sector wages resulted in higher employment in the private sector. Looking back at what has been achieved so far and what is yet to be accomplished allows for the conclusion that the past year was one of post-pandemic transition, acceleration, and a realization of the ever-pressing demands that the government faces on the road to fiscal balance.
Increasing risks of higher interest rates, mounting inflationary pressures, and growing competition all add to the heavy demands on Bahrain’s government to balance prudence, while ensuring consumers and vulnerable families are supported. With one year to achieve fiscal balance as per the national target (by 2024), building on the achievements the government has made so far will allow for successful acceleration towards the targets.
For the full release in English & Arabic, click here