AIRINC Global 150 Cities Index: Financial attractiveness of the GCC

Digital Economy TR

As global businesses start to reconsider their international footprint as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many are assessing the viability of different locations around the world. AIRINC, one of the leading authorities on international mobility, has published its Global Cities Index. The capital of Bahrain, Manama, has been ranked as the most financially attractive city in the world. Elsewhere in MENA, Riyadh was placed 4th, Kuwait City 6th, Abu Dhabi 7th, Dubai 12th and Muscat 16th. As well as placing first in the world for financial attractiveness, Manama also jumped 15 places for overall attractiveness, to 48th in the world.

The global cities index ranks 150 of all the top global locations according to financial attractiveness, lifestyle attractiveness and overall attractiveness. The data is collected by AIRINC’s own in-house survey team, who continuously research the global city rankings and costs of living cities ranking – the living conditions of cities around the world to evaluate international mobility.

Financial attractiveness in Bahrain

Bahrain’s world-leading ranking for financial attractiveness takes into account salary levels, housing, cost of living and taxes. And now more than ever, financial attractiveness matters. At a time when the entire GCC is undergoing near unprecedented economic diversification efforts, investment and innovation will be key drivers of sustainable growth. Building and maintaining a business environment that attracts and retains people, ideas and learning from all over the world is critical.
For its part, Bahrain has focused on developing a flexible, pro-business regulatory climate where companies enjoy 100 per cent foreign ownership in most sectors and pay zero percent tax. Moreover, the Kingdom is one of the easiest countries in the world to set up a company, and can also claim some of the best value operating costs in the entire region. According to the KPMG Cost of Doing Business Logistics Report 2019, Bahrain offers up to 43 per cent operational costs savings compared to other GCC destinations. And according to the KPMG Cost of Living Report 2019, living costs are up to 77 per cent higher in other GCC cities.

Financial attractiveness in the GCC

Bahrain might have been one of the first GCC members to begin diversification efforts, but now the entire region is following suit. Indeed, every single GCC member country was represented in the Global Cities Index top 20 most financially attractive cities. It seems that ambitious region-wide economic diversification plans are starting to bear results. Throughout the GCC, recent decades have seen the emergence of thriving tech ecosystems, complete with world class digital infrastructure, accelerators and even VC communities. Progress has largely been driven by the region’s tech-savvy, young population, supported by increasingly outward facing governments and increasingly pro-innovation regulation.

Looking beyond the balance sheet

However, attractiveness as an investment destination extends beyond the balance sheet. Bahrain has focused on developing its attractiveness in other areas too: for the fourth sourcconsecutive year, Bahrain was named the top MENA country for expats to live, work and settle in with their families by the InterNations Expat Insider Survey 2020. In particular, respondents noted that the friendliness of the locals and the multilingual, multicultural feel of the Kingdom made Bahrain an easy place to live and settle in. Cost of schooling, for example, is much lower in Bahrain than in neighboring countries, per the KPMG Cost of Living Report 2019. Moreover, businesses in the Kingdom have cited its open economy, skilled labour force, unparalleled regional market access and robust digital infrastructure, as reasons for choosing Bahrain.

Yet while today’s consumer is unrecognisable to that of just six months ago, for businesses seeking new markets, certain key priorities will always remain the same: local salary levels, tax rates, living costs, and living conditions will continue to feature in any serious assessment of how appealing any location is to live and by extension, establish operations in. The AIRINC Global Cities Index has demonstrated that in this regard, Bahrain and the wider GCC are a new force to be reckoned with.

To find out more about opportunities in Bahrain, get in touch with the EDB.

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