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New laws to power businesses in Bahrain

Digital EconomyEconomic DevelopmentRegulation

Bahrain has long been known as a regional pioneer in building and sustaining a robust and future-ready economy. It was the first GCC country to diversify away from oil, granting the private sector a vital role in the Kingdom’s economic growth. These developments build on a firmly established business ecosystem in Bahrain. Bahrain is due to implement four new laws to build on its firmly established business ecosystem. 

The laws come as part of a wider effort to create new opportunities for investors looking to access the $1.5tn GCC economy. The four laws set to be implemented in the coming months are:

  • A Personal Data Protection Law
  • A new Competition Law
  • A new Bankruptcy Law
  • A Health Insurance Law

These legislative changes support the development of the digital economy, open up new opportunities to our talented and entrepreneurial population, encourage experimentation and innovation, and promote an integrated health system. 

Bahrain has a long track record as a regional pioneer in the adoption of innovative technologies and business-friendly regulation to support the development of a digital economy. In 1962, the Kingdom became the first country in the MENA region to install a mainframe computer. The region’s first satellite station followed in 1969. And this year, Bahrain has introduced its first nationwide standalone Personal Data Protection Law.

The Personal Data Protection Law is designed to be a key enabler in the development and future growth of Bahrain’s digital economy. By recognising the importance of data protection, the Law seeks to keep pace with technological advancement by promoting efficient, secure and effective processing of big data.  The Law will govern how personal information is used by individuals and organisations for commercial use.  By ensuring the integrity and confidentiality of personal data, consumer trust in the market will be strengthened allowing for increased data flows across borders which individuals and businesses can capitalise on for growth and trade.

The new Competition Law was prepared in true Team Bahrain style by the EDB in partnership with other government bodies as well as with private sector stakeholders, and aims to boost innovation and efficiency. With it, new rules are in place to prevent the development of monopolies and the abuse of dominant market positions, and to curb anti-competitive practices. By allowing the disruption of established markets, the competition law will benefit consumers and the economy as a whole.

The Bankruptcy Law aims to rehabilitate individuals and organisations wherever possible, avoiding liquidation, fast tracking the process, and improving impartiality and transparency. The value of debtors’ assets will be maximised and treatment of creditors will be consistent with their legal rights. With this law, Bahrain becomes the first country in the GCC region to embed international insolvency provisions in its bankruptcy legislation, providing for regulation of cross-border procedures in line with top jurisdictions such as the UK, Japan, the US and Canada.

Finally, the new Health Insurance Law has been introduced to create an integrated health system for Bahrain, which includes a sustainable financing model designed to attract investment. The new system adds to a raft of reforms geared towards looking after Bahrain’s talented and productive workforce, including the development programmes and initiatives for vocational training run by Tamkeen, the government agency established to provide training for private sector jobs. Programmes like this have allowed thousands of Bahrainis to develop new professional skills, increasing the pool of talent available to employers.