Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arabian Peninsula

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Arabian Peninsula

Article excerpt

Bahrain Plans Financial Harbor

The Oct. 9 Arab News revealed architectural plans for Bahrain's new $1 billion Financial Harbor, which will consist of approximately 25 internal developments, to be completed by 2009. The new harbor, located on the northern shore of Manama, will boast the highest office towers in Bahrain, a financial hall, residential apartments, retail shops and outlets, maritime facilities and other recreational structures-all sporting a sleek futuristic design for the pleasure of the estimated 22,000 people who will live and work there. Bahraini sources will finance 40 percent of the project, while the remaining 60 percent will be available to regional and global investors. Essam Janahi, CEO of Gulf Finance House, the group responsible for funding the project, insists that a possible US. attack on Iraq would not affect the harbor's planned construction or market value: "This project is not a short-term investment," Janahi said. "It is long term. And this is the perfect time to attract investors who are currently looking back at the Middle East."

Bahrain Grants Citizenship, Workers' Rights

According to the Oct. 6 Gulf News Online (GNO), a royal order in Bahrain has granted citizenship to all undocumented individuals living in the country, while allowing some former deportees to return if they have Bahraini relatives. About 1,000 people will gain Bahraini citizenship under the initiative, just one in a long line of reforms passed in September and October. Others include a new labor and trade unions law, reported in the Sept. 25 GNO, which grants Bahraini workers a share in all state-owned enterprises and guarantees their right to set up independent unions and negotiate collectively with employers. Also, for the first time workers are allowed to strike as a legal means of defending their rights.

Workers celebrated the law, reports the Sept. 26 GNO, calling it an "historic" initiative. They were allowed to choose any date for the creation of a new national holiday in recognition of International Labor Day. "They have chosen Sept. 24," said Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Abdul Nabi Al Shoala, "to mark each year the anniversary of the day their hopes came true."

Also in the works is a new personal status law prohibiting teenage marriages and granting divorced women automatic custody of their children. The proposed law, which includes different regulations for Sunnis and Shi'i, has met with opposition from women's groups, which, according to the Sept. 23 GNO, are calling for a unified law. …

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