On 16 December, the Kingdom of Bahrain marks its 43rd National Day, with Bahrainis from all walks of life coming together to celebrate the nation’s achievements, and to look with hope towards a bright and prosperous future.
This year’s National Day follows national and municipal elections in November, the fourth since the beginning of Bahrain’s reform process in 2001, and the first since significant additional parliamentary powers were agreed by consensus last year. The 2014 polls saw the highest ever number of women stand for election, making up over 10 per cent of the 400-plus candidates, while the number of non-affiliated independent candidates also increased.
The Kingdom of Bahrain’s recent development continues its long history (stretching back thousands of years to the Dilmun era) as a crossroads between East and West, and a meeting point between people, cultures and civilisations.
Today, Bahrain is a modern, moderate and cosmopolitan society in the heart of the Gulf region, whose diverse economy, skilled workforce and world-renowned business and social environment are helping to drive the country’s economic growth. As in the past, contemporary Bahrain is known for its tolerance and mutual respect, with people of all religious beliefs free to practise their faith. All of these factors, combined with Bahrain’s strategic location and access to regional markets, mean that my country has become the venue of choice for businesses around the world, and a key centre of finance and commerce.
In 2016, we will celebrate the 200th anniversary of the relations between Bahrain and the UK. As we do so, it is worth reflecting on how these ties have flourished over the centuries, and how they continue to benefit both our countries and the wider Middle East region. Bahrain hosts a sizeable British expatriate community, while the many former residents now in the UK, combined with the numerous Bahrainis working or studying here, ensure strong personal friendships between our countries.
Economically, our two countries remain close trading partners across a wide range of goods and services: our bilateral trade totalled almost £300 million for the period January-September 2014. With our close economic connections and our shared position as financial and commercial centres, we look forward to further expanding UK-Bahrain trade in the years ahead.
For Bahrain, the UK has always been a true friend, whose constructive advice and support have always been appreciated. Indeed, this open and honest approach by both sides underlines the strength and maturity of our bilateral ties, and has enabled us to work closely together to further our mutual interests and expand our joint cooperation.
So as the Kingdom of Bahrain celebrates its 43rd National Day, we face the future with confidence and anticipation, convinced that we have the skills and determination to build upon our historical achievements to realise the hopes and aspirations of all Bahrainis.