The ambassador to the UN from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) told me recently that every government agency in his country has a sustainability plan out to the year 2030. The most significant part of that policy exercise is the fact they need to develop an economy beyond oil - - because they expect to run out of it by then.
Last week I visited Bahrain, an island in the middle of the Persian Gulf that is widely regarded as the Switzerland of the Middle East. This amazing little country gets only about 15% of its revenues from oil/gas development, so it too is planning for what comes after the Oil Age. With that in mind, Bahrain has encouraged the expansion of financial institutions (probably a good thing given how many are melting down in the US and Europe these days!), but more remarkable is the manufacturing industries that are blooming in the desert by the aquamarine waters of the Gulf.
Will Bahrain be the next China in terms of being both an economic and manufacturing powerhouse? Because everyone there speaks English (thanks to a British colonial history until 1971), will Bahrain be the next tech center to compete with India? Based on the rapid development going on in the country and a lot of “cool” factor - - I witnessed the Formula One Grand Prix race there and a major yacht race is being staged next - - the answer is yes.
Bahrain enjoys a moderate and stable government; skilled labor at competitive pricing; great location for transportation of goods; and a sophisticated investment pool for growing new businesses. Moreover, government officials and business people alike are focused on encouraging the growth of sustainable industries - - low carbon, energy efficient technologies that the world will need to replace fossil fuels, especially as we emerge from the current economic slowdown.
Most of all, Bahrain has the potential to be the next green-tech powerhouse, or anything else it chooses to be, because the people are among the most hospitable and generous I’ve ever met. Of course with a blend of Zurich, Beijing, London, and Mumbai - - and an exotic blend of 1001 Arabian Nights mixed in - - it’s bound to create a very special place for doing business or taking your next vacation.