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
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.