Conventional name: Kingdom of Bahrain (dawlatu bahrayn)
Etymology: « between two seas », dual form of the Arab name bahr, the sea. It used to design the east coast of the Arabic peninsula and the group of islands alongside, which were divided into two sides by the peninsula of Qatar. In the Middle Age, the name of Bahrain was restreint to the archipelago currently named so.
Surface area: 711 km², Bahrain is an archipelago composed of 36 islands, two of them inhabited.
Administrative divisions: 12 municipalities
Population density (2008): 1072 inhabitants/Km2
Population growth (2007 est.): 1.39%
Young people under 15 years old (2006 est.): 27.4%
Fecundity rate (2006 est.) : 2.6
Life expectancy (2006 est.): 74.7 years
Infant mortality (2006 est.): 16.8 deaths/ 1,000 live births
Urban population (2008): 90%
Illiteracy rate (2003): men: 8,1%; women: 15%
Language: Arabic (official), English, Farsi, Urdu
Ethnic Background: Bahraini Arabs 62.4%, non-Bahraini 37.6% (2001 census)
Religions: Muslim (Shi’a and Sunni) 81.2%, Christian 9%, other 9.8% (2001 census)
HDI (Human Development Indicator, NUO figures 2005): index 0.866 (41th position among 173 countries, considered as high development index)
Currency: Bahraini Dinar (BHD) (1 US $ = 0.376 Bahraini dinar, 2005)
Gross Domestic Product (GDP) (2007 est.): 16.4 billion US $
Gross Domestic Product per capita (2007 est.): 21,621 $
Annual growth (2007 est.): 6.8%
Unemployment rate (2007 est.): 15%
Labour force by sector: industry, trade and services 79%, public sector 20%, agriculture 1% (1997 est.)
Industries: petroleum processing and refining, aluminum smelting, offshore banking, ship repairing, tourism, iron pelletization, fertilizers
Agriculture products: fruit, vegetables; poultry, dairy products; shrimp, fish
Exports (2005 est.): 11.17 billion US $
Imports (2005 est.): 7.83 billion US $
Major Trading Partners: exports: Saudi Arabia (3%), US (2.9%), UAE (2.2%) note: data are for non-oil exports only (2004) ; imports: Saudi Arabia (32.4%), Japan (7.3%), Germany (6.1%), US (5.6%), UK (5.4%), France (4.8%) (2004)
Total External Debt (2005 est.): 6.831 billion US $
Year of independence: 15 August 1971 (from the UK). The same year the country was admitted into the UN.
Member i.a. of: League of Arab States, Gulf Cooperation Council, W.T.O.,
Parties to i.a. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Chemical Weapons Convention (CWP).
State nature: Kingdom
Political system: Constitutional monarchy
Head of State (King, former Amir): HAMAD bin Isa AL-KHALIFA (since March 1999)
Prime Minister: King HAMAD bin Isa AL-KHALIFA (since 6 March 1999); Heir apparent Crown Prince SALMAN bin Hamad (son of the monarch, born 21 October 1969)
Minister for Foreign Affairs: Cheikh Khaled Bin Ahmad AL KHALIFA
- The smallest and the most densely populated Arab state (944 inhab./Km²). After Oman, it is the Gulf state with the strongest non-Sunni majority.
- Although 65% of the population is Chiite, the royal family being Sunni (and supported by the government, the army and the business sector), this is the predominant branch of Islam in the archipelago.
- Bahrain is ruled by the Al Khalifa family since the 18th Century. In 1820 it signed the General Treaty of Peace with Great Britain. In 1861 both countries concluded the Perpetual Truce of Peace and Friendship treaty (revised in 1892 and 1951). Likewise other countries in the Gulf, Bahrain was a Protectorate of Great Britain.
- The Al Khalifa family is formed by more than 3.000 members, all of them receiving allowances from their birth. The members of the Royal family are numerous in the Administration and the Executive.
- Since the accession to the throne of Hammed bin Isa al Khalifa, in March 1999, the country is making steps towards democracy. A referendum took place in February 2002 to vote the new Charter. 98’4% of the population voted in favour. The Charter installed a bicameral parliamentary system, one of them directly elected by universal suffrage (men and women) and a Consultative Chamber (Shura) which is appointed. The referendum was accompanied by the liberation of all political prisoners, the right of return of people exiled for political reasons and a great expansion of freedom of expression and association (non-governmental associations were legalised).
- With the entering into force of the new Charter the country became a Constitutional Monarchy. The name of the country was changed into Kingdom of Bahrain (before it was state of Bahrain), and henceforward the sovereign was no longer Emir but King of Bahrain.
- Bahrain is the only country in the Gulf where women have the right to vote and to stand for elections. During the elections of October 2002 eight women ran for a seat in the Parliament, but none of them was elected, in 2004 two women were nominated at the government, and one woman was elected at the Parliament during the elections of November 2006.
- Bahrain is the first Gulf state to have started the exploitation of oil in 1932. On the current production of 40.000 barrels per day, reserves are expected to last 10-15 years. The oil and gas production represent 60% of budget revenues. At current rate consumption, gas reserves will last for 50 years.
- It was the first country in the Gulf to begin industrial diversification when it started aluminium production in 1971. ALBA (Aluminium Bahrain) has increased its production from the initial 120,000 tonnes per year to 500,000 tonnes in 1997, making it the first aluminium smelter in the Middle East. Plans are under way to expand its production capacity to 750,000 tonnes a year.
- Due to the diversification effort, the bank sector has boomed in Bahrain (partly as a consequence of the Lebanese civil war). More than 100 offshore banks are present in the archipelago.
- A big building project called “Financial Harbour” has been approved by the government in October 2002. It will provide all facilities and services to companies in addition to restaurants and recreational activities. Built on reclaimed land before Manama Harbour, its estimated cost will reach one billion US$.
- The government controls most of the main basic industries, including oil and aluminium. Financial services, telecommunications and banks have started being privatised.
- The territorial dispute with Qatar, was finally ruled out by the International Court of Justice on the 16th of March 2001 (the case has been the longest to resolve in the history of the Court). The Court decided to give sovereignity to Qatar over Zubarah and Janan Island as well as the tow-tide elevation of Fasht ad Dibal while Baheain is sovereign over the Hawar Islands and the island of Qit’at Jaradah.
- As a member of the GCC, Bahrain is part of the negotiation process between the EU and the GCC. In 1989 the EU concluded a cooperation agreement which was ratified by Bahrain. The aim of this agreement is to increase trade relations and to contribute to stability in the region. Both parties commited to enter into negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement. The EU hs always stated as a condition for the Free Trade the constitution of a GCC Customs Union.
- In 1999 the GCC member states agreed on a Custom Union which would enter into force by 2005. However, in December 2001, the six countries agreed to advance the introduction of their Customs Union by two years (it is expected to enter into force by the 1st of January 2003). The Common External Tariff has already been introduced.
- The bulk of European imports from Bahrain consist of crude oil although it represents only a small quantity. On the other hand, Bahrain mainly imports from EU members are machinery and transport material. The EU total imports from Bahrain account for 434 M€, while it exports for 895 M€ (trade balance in favour of the EU 463 M€).
Sources (figures): L’Etat du Monde 2003 (La Découverte), CIA World Factbook 2002, Arab Human Development Report 2002, http://www.diplomatie.gouv.fr/