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Bahrain Financial Harbour starts Operations

The first phase of the Bahrain Financial Harbour (BFH) was inaugurated today (May 2) by Prime Minister Shaikh Khalifa Bin Salman Al Khalifa. Phase I of the $1.5 billion BFH project is the Financial Centre, the main business district.

The formal opening ceremony was attended by over 350 of the world’s leading banking industry professionals, regulators and senior government officials from Bahrain, in addition to other local, regional and international dignitaries.

The event titled ‘Enterprising Bahrain’ included a high profile conference titled ‘Middle East Financial Services Summit’, held in association with the Financial Times Group, and a specially themed evening event.

The opening was followed by an impressive high-voltage spectacularly choreographed multi-media laser and fireworks show which artistically lit up the entire harbour while bringing the iconic Harbour Towers into the spotlight.

Commenting on the occasion, Rasheed Mohammed Al Maraj, Governor of the Central Bank of Bahrain, said: “The region is witnessing a significant change on all fronts be it political, social and even economic. The financial sector in the region, of which Bahrain is a key driver, has also been undergoing a dramatic transformation, successfully emerging into a global financial centre. However, with the rapid growth being witnessed in the region the time is now ripe for the next big growth thrust in the sector, which currently is to some extent being limited by certain aspects of infrastructure and regulation.

“While, as the Central Bank of Bahrain, we are actively working on the regulation side in the kingdom, it is developments such as the Bahrain Financial Harbour that we believe would play a large role in addressing the issue of meeting the complex and constantly evolving infrastructure needs of the sector,” he added.

Esam Janahi, chairman of BFH, said: “Over the last couple of decades, Bahrain has successfully gained the reputation of being the financial hub of the Middle East, driven by the forward looking and open market policies adopted by the kingdom’s dynamic leadership and government and backed by the world-class regulation through the Central Bank of Bahrain and the Bahrain Economic Development Board.

“Furthermore, where the first half of this decade saw record repatriation to the tune of $1.5 trillion back into the region, the last couple of years has seen the trend being reversed with the emergence of Middle East as one of the leading global exporters of investments and the emergence of Islamic Finance, pioneered by the region, as a significant alternate to conventional banking globally.

“This has laid the ideal platform for the region to emerge as a leading global financial centre and Bahrain with its leadership position in both conventional and Islamic Finance, along with its advanced regulatory framework, strategic position and robust multi-lateral trade agreements including WTO membership and a FTA agreement with the USA is well placed to take significant advantage of this. However, there are some limitations in terms of relatively less developed capital and bond markets and the lack of world-class technologically advanced infrastructure that is to some extent restricting this progress. BFH was conceived with the aim of addressing these concerns, in the process significantly contributing to enhancing Bahrain and the region’s position in the global financial markets.

“As promoters of this landmark development which is the region’s most technologically advanced and first fully-integrated master-planned waterfront financial district, the formal opening of this project by the Prime Minister of Bahrain is a matter of great pride for us. We are confident that this milestone project will not just significantly impact the position and economy of the kingdom but would also create large-scale employment opportunities for the highly educated and trained workforce of Bahrain,” Janahi added.

The $1.5 billion BFH was conceived as an integrated financial city, coming up on the Manama Corniche. Furthermore, spread over 380,000 sq m of prime seafront property, it aims at re-enforcing Bahrain’s position as the financial capital of the Middle East and further enhancing the attractiveness of GCC as a whole for global financial sector players.

Phase I of the project ‘The Financial Centre’, which is also the main business district, includes the Harbour Towers – Bahrain’s tallest towers - and the Harbour Mall. The Harbour Towers will provide prime office and commercial space for the financial services industry while the Harbour Mall will house high quality retail outlets and cafes, other leisure facilities as well as brokerage and trading firms. Additionally, development of Phase II of the project, the $450 million Villamar @ the Harbour, which is also a key residential component, is well underway.

Elaborating on ‘Enterprising Bahrain’, Stephen Rothel, chief executive officer, BFH, said: “I am delighted to say that every act in the official launch ceremony of the BFH has been sourced from within the kingdom. It is an incredible accolade for Bahrain’s performers to be able to put on a show of such quality and diversity – with the added passion in the performances that comes from knowing everyone involved in this historic occasion is representing their country.”

The full schedule of the event also involved a full spectrum of talent and abilities from traditional to contemporary being displayed. In addition to the light and fireworks display and the other acts, one of the most popular performances of the evening was by Bahrain’s Olympic gymnasts who are amongst the most accomplished sporting groups in the kingdom.

The opening address at the Middle East Financial Services Summit was delivered by Stephen Timewell, the editor-in-chief of The Banker. The welcome speech was delivered by Esam Janahi, while Brian Caplen, the editor of The Banker introduced the keynote speaker Niall Booker, the chief executive and deputy chairman of HSBC Middle East.- (TradeArabia News Service )

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