*** ----> Bahrain welcoming place for expats, but citizens definitely first priority | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Bahrain welcoming place for expats, but citizens definitely first priority

TDT | Manama                                                      

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Report by Ashen Tharaka

Recent proposals by Bahraini MPs before the Council of Representatives may give the impression that the deputies are hell-bent on getting expatriates out of the kingdom.

But an MP who headed the bloc that came up with most of those proposals reassured that expatriates are still welcome here.

As these proposals may potentially affect the work and lives of expatriates in the kingdom, it has led to heated discussions on social media.

The Daily Tribune reached out to MP Ahmed Sabah Al Salloum, who heads a group of MPs called the Strategic Thinking Bloc (STB) at the Council of Representatives, to talk about the recent proposals.

Citizens First

According to the STB, most proposals are made by giving priority to citizens and do not reflect negatively on expatriates who contribute significantly to the national economy.

The STB aims to provide strategic proposals for legislation prioritising citizens until 2026.

“No one is against expats. Bahrain continues to be a welcoming place to live and work, but it is our job to put citizens’ interests first,” MP Al Salloum told The Daily Tribune.

Highlighting the STB’s efforts in the labour market, MP Al Salloum stated that the committee is further looking for legislation that makes Bahrainis the first choice for employment and a propeller for growth in coordination with the Ministry of Labour.

“There is more to be done,” he added. The STB is purely working to analyse, research, develop, and draft legislation that takes care of the well-being of the citizens, he explained.

To enhance significant outcomes for the welfare of citizens in the coming years, STB has numerous strategic initiatives in the pipeline until they end their four-year term in 2026, the MP said. MP Al Salloum further stated, “Whether it is incentives, privileges, or better deals in daily life, a source of income, revenues, work, or anything that could push ahead with living standards, all of this tops our agenda.”

Regulating Expat Driver’s Licences

As a part of the STB agenda, the group recently proposed a new law that would restrict expats from obtaining driver’s licences unless their jobs require it. It was presented as a solution for the traffic congestion due to the high number of vehicles on the road.

“It is a way to tackle the excess number of driving licences and the large number of vehicles on the road,” said MP Al Salloum. ”Our aim is not to stop expats from getting driving licences, but to regulate the process from further spiralling out of hand,” he affirmed.

The proposal regarding the driving licence was not the first but part of a long list of legislation that touched upon the work and lives of expatriates in the country.

Previously, MPs had unanimously approved a proposal to restrict expatriates from taking up positions in six fields: medicine, aviation, legal, accounting, banking, and education.

Another proposal suggested doubling the fees being levied for expatriate employees in administrative, vocational, and supervisory jobs.

The MPs had even proposed stopping Bahrain’s Labour Fund's (Tamkeen) support for businesses that are fully owned by expatriates.

Yet another proposal had suggested levying a 2% tax on expat remittances abroad, and it was approved by the MPs despite strong opposition from the government.

Best Destination

However, it’s important to acknowledge the significant contribution of foreign workers in the Kingdom.

By the second quarter of 2023, the number of foreign workers employed in Bahrain had reached over 609,000, according to labour market indicators.

This substantial workforce has demonstrably boosted the national economy, particularly in the real estate sector.

Bahrain’s success in attracting expats is further underscored by its achievement in 2023, ranking 9th globally and 1st in the Middle East and North Africa as a destination for expatriates.


MP Ahmed Sabah Al Salloum