Poverty in Bahrain
The road to and away from poverty is rarely an uncomplicated one. Poverty in Bahrain is one such nuanced phenomenon. The country officially reports that zero percent of people live below the poverty line, and the country excels in many social and political sectors. However, impoverished people do exist in Bahrain, albeit in small numbers. The following are nine important facts about Bahrain, concerning both its causes of poverty and its successes.

  1. The Al Khalifa family created Bahrain in 1782 when they captured land from the Persians. Throughout the 19th century until independence in 1971, Bahrain existed as a British protectorate in an effort to ensure security over its lands.
  2. Sheikh Hamad came to power in 1999. In 2002 he pronounced Bahrain a constitutional monarchy, changing his status from amir to king. Now, Bahrain has one of the best political participation systems in the Persian Gulf, with a well-balanced elected parliament.
  3. Economically, the country once depended on oil reserves, but as those declined, petroleum processing and refining took on a more central role.
  4. The attempt to diversify the economy lost footing, and now oil comprises 86 percent of Bahraini budget revenues. In 2016, low oil prices generated a budget deficit of $4 billion (14 percent of the nation’s GDP).
  5. Despite economic strife, Bahrain’s unemployment rate is at a low of 5.3 percent.
  6. The causes of poverty in Bahrain have spared education. Bahrain’s education system is one of the best in the Persian Gulf, as it was the region’s first country to create a public school system and allow females into all education levels. Education is free for all children in Bahrain.
  7. Thanks to Bahrain’s outstanding education system, the literacy rate is 95.7 percent of the total population.
  8. Access to safe water and sanitation facilities is more than favorable. One hundred percent of the population has access to improved drinking water sources, and 99.2 percent of the population has access to sanitation facilities.
  9. Women’s rights in Bahrain are the most advanced in the Persian Gulf. Women have the right to run for public office, work alongside men in both the public and private sector and wear what they wish without restriction, such as wearing the veil.

If these facts say anything, it’s that a country’s poverty rate does not necessarily speak to the quality of basic human rights like education, water, sanitation, political participation and job security. A fluctuating oil industry is one of the main causes of poverty in Bahrain. However, with aluminum production, finance, construction, banking and tourism all gaining economic momentum, Bahrain may be within range of economic stability and a decrease in poverty.

Sophie Nunnally

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in BahrainBahrain was predicted to have a significant amount of fiscal debts in coming years in July 2016. The debt of Bahrain’s government was expected to rise from 44 percent in GDP (gross domestic product) in 2014, to 83.7 percent in 2016. The answer to how to help people in Bahrain is to prevent such predictions from coming true, and solutions can be seen through the country’s recent opportunities.

The Economic Development Board characterizes Bahrain as a “legislative sector” and “strong financial system,” — a standing which attracts investors. Bahrain is also able to transfer profits, funds and capital without restrictions. Bahrain’s free and open economic policy has given its country the reputation of a fast-growing financial center in the Middle East.

As for Bahrain’s labor productivity rate, the country has seen only a 17 percent increase in this sector over the past 25 years. Compared to countries with labor productivity rate increases of 21 percent, Bahrain’s rate is relatively small. Bahrain also increased its employment rates by offering jobs to citizens in the country’s public sector. However, the jobs were low-wage, causing Bahrain to face a shortage of quality employment.

Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa (Bahrain’s king in 2008) launched a development program called Vision 2030 to improve Bahrain’s economy. The program aimed for more Bahraini families to have twice as much disposable income by 2030. Less than a decade after Vision 2030’s launch, Bahrain’s economy has grown by 28 percent, and from 2009 to 2014 international investments into Bahrain have risen threefold.

Infrastructure investments in Bahrain have helped the country boost its non-oil sector by 3.7 percent. The sectors that helped this growth were particularly strong in financial performance, social services and construction. Additionally, Bahrain’s volume of active projects doubled from $1.6 billion in the first quarter of 2016 to $3.2 billion in February 2017.

After a six-year absence from Bahrain, Ethiopian Airlines announced in July 2017 that it would resume its services to the country. Ethiopian Airlines will offer three flights per week between its base in Addis Ababa-Bole and Manama (Bahrain’s capital). The airline calls Bahrain a “centre of the main trade routes” with a decade’s worth of growing economy; this too shows how to help people in Bahrain.

Bahrain’s manufacturing sector accounts for 14.4 percent of the country’s GDP. Bahrain also has investment and international growth opportunities in the sub-sectors of food, industrials, and beverage (F&B) and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG).

The country plans to invest $32 billion in infrastructure projects in the coming years as well. One-third of the expenses will go toward Bahrain’s manufacturing sector.

Bahrain also works to enhance infrastructure and create more attractions to increase tourism. Earlier this year, Bahrain held an event called “Shop Bahrain” that managed to attract 130,000 shoppers from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and other neighboring Gulf states. More business coming to Bahrain could mean more job opportunities for Bahrain’s citizens.

With trade, tourism and Vision 2030, Bahrainis may have many economic opportunities to come. This could prove especially helpful for the four percent of unemployed Bahrainis. These opportunities and the efforts in place to help the country’s economy demonstrate feasible methods of how to help people in Bahrain.

Rhondjé Singh Tanwar

Photo: Flickr

Diseases in Bahrain
Bahrain is a nation in the Arabian Gulf consisting of a small archipelago. With a population of just over 1.3 million, Bahrain may seem small, but it has some large health issues. Cardiovascular diseases, cancers and diabetes pose the largest threat to health in Bahrain. These non-communicable diseases share many common risk factors that can be controlled in order to prevent disease.

Cardiovascular diseases are common in Bahrain. Twenty-six percent of all deaths in Bahrain can be linked to cardiovascular diseases. Cancer and diabetes are also prevalent diseases in Bahrain and each account for 13% of all deaths. Lung and bronchial cancers as the most common cancers in Bahrain.

Poor dietary behaviors are the largest contributing risk factor for all health issues in Bahrain. Eating a diet high in sodium and trans fats and low in whole grains, fruits and vegetables puts Bahranians at risk for cardiovascular diseases, obesity and diabetes. These diseases are also risk factors for one another, but all have links to poor diet.

Another key risk factor contributing to both cancers and cardiovascular diseases in Bahrain is tobacco use. More than 5,000 children and 185,000 adults use tobacco every day in the country. Four men and one woman are killed by tobacco-related diseases every week.

The Bahrain Cancer Society recognizes the importance of education about risk factors and taking preventative health measures. The government also has active plans and programs that are helping reduce tobacco use and promote healthy diets.

Landmark Group’s Beat Diabetes initiative, for example, is a program launched to help people recognize and prevent diabetes, which is also linked to cardiovascular diseases and shares many of the same risk factors. The initiative was started in 2009, and by 2015 it had reached over six million people throughout the Gulf states.

With preventative measures in place to combat non-communicable diseases and reduce risk factors for disease, Bahrain can reduce the prevalence of some of its most common diseases. Government programs and nongovernmental organizations’ initiatives aimed at preventing and recognizing early signs of disease already point to a hopeful future for Bahrain.

Rilee Pickle

Photo: Flickr

The Kingdom of Bahrain is a group of islands located in the southern waters of the Persian Gulf in the Middle East. Comprising 40 islands, Bahrain was ranked as the second-largest user of water per square centimeter of land in the world, according to the Bahrain Economic Development Board, which is a disproportionately large level of water consumption for its size. Water quality in Bahrain continues to be a prominent problem despite efforts toward water security.

In the early 1900s, a majority of Bahrain’s water came from freshwater springs that flowed through the northern part of the country. After 1980, freshwater stopped flowing while the demand for drinkable water increased alongside population size.

Bahrain was listed among the top 10 countries that are the most likely to suffer from a water crisis in the next 25 years in a report released by the World Resources Institute. According to the study of 167 countries, 33 countries, half of which are in the Middle East, are at risk of facing a severe water crisis by 2040.

Water quality in Bahrain is further affected by the extremely high salinity of its accessible water. In 2008, AQUASTAT, a program measuring water quality within the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization, reported that “over-utilization of the Dammam aquifer, the principal aquifer in Bahrain, by the agricultural and domestic sectors has led to its salinization through water coming from adjacent brackish and saline water bodies.”

Salinization refers to the toxic buildup of salt content within a natural resource. Bahrain relies heavily on unconventional sources of water, including its four desalination plants. Water desalination plays a crucial role in water security for the nation. A possible solution to a lack of freshwater would be to extract it from the surrounding sea.

According to a study done in 2013, records reveal that the rate of growth of water demand has been on average four percent per year. Despite the implementation of increased desalination efforts, the Kingdom of Bahrain continues to suffer from the water shortage due to population increase, industrial development, commercial growth and tourism projects.

One solution appears to be the creation of water storage facilities throughout the country. As a large part of its water security system, storage tanks of potable water are used to ensure supply during crisis situations. In 2013, the storage tanks held a water capacity that could ensure the survival of the nation for two days in case of extreme emergency conditions, leading to improvement of water quality in Bahrain.

Ninety percent of water in Bahrain is secured through desalination processes. Water security remains a high priority, with the government seeking the aid of the Water Resources Council of the Kingdom of Bahrain. In the council’s most recent meeting in February, Abdul Rahman Al Mahmoud, Water and Science Technology Association (WSTA) President, briefed Sheikh Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa, the Deputy Prime Minister of Bahrain.

The council encourages interest in the science of water, training programs, the development of local capacity and contribution to public awareness programs that achieve the optimal use of water. It also encourages the use of scientific methods for the development of various water sources, according to a press release by the WSTA. Despite current efforts, improving water quality in Bahrain remains one of the country’s top national concerns.

Riley Bunch

Photo: Flickr

Bahrain is a small Muslim country located in the Persian Gulf off the coast of Saudi Arabia. Bahrain has only been independent of imperial governance for 42 years. It has been governed by a Sunni-led constitutional monarchy since its release from British rule and Iranian influence in 1971. Although many of the violent conflicts in the Middle East dwarf the issues in Bahrain, the country’s refugee problem has grown since 2011. Shia refugees in Bahrain today face displacement, religious segregation and suppression of free speech.

Until recently, Sunni and Shia Muslims have lived in relative peace since Bahrain’s formal independence. In comparison to many other Islamic countries in the Middle East, Bahrain experienced little violence along religious lines. Whether this was because the nation is in its infancy, or because of the absolute rule of the government, remains to be seen. However, it is clear that a stark divide between the two sects of Islam was revived in light of recent political turmoil.

The dominant sect of Shia Muslims began a series of protests in 2011 which have occurred through to the present day. Dissatisfied with their representation in the government since independence, protesters hope to galvanize political reform. The royal family’s militant suppression of free speech caused most protests to subside and created a mass of Shia refugees.

Government analysts noted the possibility that the religious divide between Sunni and Shia has been rehashed as a political tactic to suppress dissenters. Bahraini dissenters are displeased with the lack of democratic representation in the government. As local Bahraini historians and politicians suggested, pitting the two sects of Islam against each other appears to be an attempt to consolidate power within the royal family.

Civil unrest in Bahrain and the royal family’s purported desire to consolidate power within the country led to the marginalization of Shia Muslims. Below are ten facts about Shia refugees in Bahrain which indicate the disenfranchisement, poverty and exploitation they suffer.

10 Facts About Shia Refugees in Bahrain

  1. Most Bahraini refugees are Shia Muslims. Unlike most instances of political scapegoating, the situation in Bahrain is peculiar in that the Shia sect of Islam is the religious majority.
  2. The official reason for the exile of many Shia Muslims is the sect’s purported allegiance to Iran’s political agenda. However, there is no hard evidence that Bahraini Shia Muslims are advancing an Iranian political agenda. Furthermore, the overwhelming majority of Bahraini exiles are noted political dissenters who are critical of Bahrain’s royal family.
  3. Shia refugees live in ghettos which are becoming increasingly common in Bahrain. The slums are often purposely masked by new infrastructure. This infrastructure is funded by donations from Arab nations seeking to quell the civil unrest boiling beneath the surface.
  4. Political dissidents in Bahrain can receive sentences of up to five years in prison, which may include torture depending on the dissident’s level of cooperation. The Security Law of Bahrain, which passed in 1975, states that any political prisoner may be imprisoned for up to three years if the ruling party deems the dissident a threat to the ultimate goals of the nation.
  5. Routine and institutionalized discrimination against Shia Muslims bars the religious group from easily obtaining the most basic human necessities, such as food, shelter and water.
  6. Since 2012, the Sunni ruling family has been tinkering with the citizen naturalization process to disrupt the demographics of Bahrain and weaken the voice of the Shia in the nation’s political institutions.
  7. The right to fair trial is regularly kept from Shia Muslims, which serves to exacerbate the injustices which cause extreme poverty in ghettos.
  8. Health care for Shia refugees is minimal, but there is an even more chronic lack of medical care for persons living with HIV/AIDS, posing a serious threat to public health.
  9. While the egregious human rights violations carried out against the Shia in Bahrain have subsided somewhat recently, the institutions which facilitated these abuses of power remain intact. Work must still be done in order to alleviate the poverty and oppression of Shia Muslims in Bahrain.
  10. Bahrain has not agreed to the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons or the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness. This means that the treatment of refugees in Bahrain is not monitored, and information concerning refugees in Bahrain is disorganized and largely missing.

Linford Spencer

Photo: Flickr

Education in Bahrain
The island country of Bahrain, officially the Kingdom of Bahrain, is known primarily for its small size and successful finance industry. However, Bahrain also has a progressive and highly valued education system. Here at 10 facts about education in Bahrain:

  1. Bahrain’s public school system was founded in 1932 and is the oldest in the Arabian Peninsula. The average person in Bahrain will receive 6.1 years of education.
  2. While Bahrain has a number of private schools, public education in Bahrain is free until secondary school for both boys and girls. Education is also compulsory for kids aged 6-14.
  3. The majority of the country, 95.7 percent, is literate. Bahrain also has the highest female literacy rate, 93.5 percent, in the Arabian Peninsula.
  4. Bahrain does not spend much on education relative to other countries. Approximately 2.6 percent of the country’s GDP goes toward education costs, meaning Bahrain ranks 153 out of 173 countries on education spending.
  5. Prior to the 20th century, Quranic schools, which were dedicated primarily to Qur’an studies, were the only type of school in Bahrain.
  6. Education in Bahrain is changing in order to better prepare students for careers. The country is splitting secondary education into two tracks, unified and vocational. The unified track is aimed more at university preparation while the vocational track is meant to prepare students for technical careers directly after finishing school.
  7. In Bahrain, girls are educated at roughly the same rate as boys. Approximately 97 percent of girls and 98 percent of boys are enrolled in primary school, while 91 percent of girls and 87 percent of boys attend secondary school.
  8. Approximately 25.2 percent of Bahrainis will go on to post-secondary education. Of these students, the majority are women, as Bahrain has one of the highest university gender parity indexes at 2.52.
  9. Despite women receiving roughly equal education to men in Bahrain, the number of women in the workforce is low. Only 32 percent of women aged 15 and above are in the workforce, compared to 85 percent of men. This is significantly lower than the rest of the world, as globally 52 percent of women are active in the workforce.
  10. Many Bahraini students participate in exchange programs, such as the U.S. government’s Student Leaders Program, a summer program where Bahraini university students study at U.S. universities.

Despite Bahrain’s small size, high literacy rates, mandatory schooling and a push for higher education reveal how education in Bahrain is continuing to strengthen and grow.

Alexi Worley

Photo: Flickr

4 Clues to Understanding Poverty in Bahrain
A great deal of poverty in Bahrain stems from a systematic discrimination of Shias by the Sunni leaders. Bahrainis were one of the first to begin protesting in the Arab Spring of 2011 but were also one of the first to be shut down. The discrimination of the Shias still exists today in Bahrain. To better understand Bahrain, here are four facts that you need to know:

    1. Bahrain is run by a monarchy that has been in power since their occupation of the island during the 1700s. The monarchy works within itself, through a private council that resolves familial disputes and financial issues. Today, Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy with an elected legislature.
    2. The monarchy consists of Sunnis, but the majority of the population of Bahrain is Shia. This encourages systematic discrimination throughout Bahrain, which sparked multiple protests by Shia Bahrainis in 2011. Shias claimed that privileges and opportunities were given out more freely to the Sunnis within Bahrain. Mainly these protestors argued for a new constitution and an equal society in terms of job opportunities for Shia Bahrainis, but the protests were shut down quickly. The monarchy called the protesters traitors and used troops from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to end the protests.
    3. There is a large wealth disparity between Shias and Sunnis throughout Bahrain. The capital city of Manama is full of beautiful buildings and skyscrapers, but the villages surrounding the city show the disparity. However, figures do not suggest that Bahrain has any citizens living in extreme poverty (under one U.S. dollar a day) according to the United Nations Development Programme. But, 12.2% of the population lives under five U.S. dollars a day, therefore poverty in Bahrain still exists.
    4. Most of the unemployed Bahrainis are between the ages of 15 and 24. Unemployed females within that age group have an unemployment rate of 16.8 % in 2014, and unemployed males are at 8.5%, according to the International Labour Organization. There is a clear disparity between females and males who are able to acquire jobs, as well as the disparity between the Shias and Sunnis that is still prevalent today.

Poor Shias living in Bahrain without any connections to wealthier Shias or Sunnis will most likely stay in that caste. Bahrain is very committed to its traditions including its monarchy. While extreme poverty in Bahrain is not the country’s biggest issue, the disparity that is rampant leads more into poverty every day.

Meagan Foy

Photo: Flickr

Housing Shortage in BahrainBahrain is an archipelago in the Persian Gulf with a very small population and land size. Nearly half its population consists of foreign expatriates. After gaining independence from Britain in 1971, the country’s ruling monarchs led it toward development. Today, however, with Bahrain’s huge expatriate population, housing has proven a critical issue. In October 2010, 41 percent of the country’s population could not afford shelter. This is a sharp increase from 24 percent in March 2009. Lack of adequate planning has led to a severe housing shortage in Bahrain.

The lack of affordable housing is one of Bahrain’s main economic concerns, especially considering the increase in demand from the youth sector. The shortage is one of many key factors creating housing inequality and fueling grievances against the country’s wealthy rulers.

When compared to neighboring Arab states, Bahrain subsidizes fewer housing units. The government has promised to provide living spaces, but the waiting list keeps increasing. According to the housing ministry, more than 46,000 people in Bahrain are waiting for subsidized houses, and current recipients of homes have been waiting since the 1990s.

To resolve the affordable housing shortage in Bahrain, the country’s government launched a new plan based on Public Private Partnerships (PPP). The project aims to build and deliver low-cost housing for ordinary citizens. Its goal is for private corporations to raise funds and brainstorm innovative ideas to support the public sector’s housing projects. This method has proven successful in other countries such as Mexico and Brazil.

The real problem lies in the fact that the government spends more money on luxurious housings units for the wealthy, even though the majority of Bahrainis are looking for simpler, more affordable housing. In addition to this, the government’s plans for new housing units are taking an extremely long time to complete. Nevertheless, the government hopes that its projects will foster better relations with opposition groups in the country.

Recently, Prime Minister Khalifa bin Salman urged officials to continue providing speedy solutions to the peoples’ housing needs. He also urged stronger and more cooperative relations with the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat).

Noman Ahmed

Photo: Flickr