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The multi-award winning Arabian Magazine

49th National Day Special Edition December 2020 | ISSUE 186

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Gulf Financial Insider

Contents December 2020

Issue 186

08 Bahrain National Day Special Edition

10 Simply unparalleled online presence that connects region’s most inspired communities.

08 10 20 22 24 28 30 32 38 48

Digitalized Bahrain History Pioneering Retail Experiences - Carrefour A Mission to Help - Dadabhai Academic Excellence - AUBH Enriching Holistic Education - BSB Reinventing Education - ASB Customer-centric - Hospitalia by Yara Tribute to PM/Condolences #NextGen - BMW


Knowledge is power

Publisher & Editor in Chief

Nicholas C. Cooksey

Editorial

Angela Acosta

Editorial Contributors

Hugh Haskell-Thomas

Nicholas Cortes Bill Daly

Sales & Business Development

Charlie Cooksey

A picture is worth a thousand words.

Layout Designs

Dhanraj S

Here's last month’s most 'Liked' #BestInBahrain picture posted to our social media.

Admin & Finance

Nikesh Pola

Photography

Angelo Jose A

Comment...

Distribution Mohammed Yousif Aramex Al Ayam For advertising contact Charlie Cooksey +973 3652 0004 charlie@gulf-insider.com

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P.O. Box 26810, Kingdom of Bahrain Tel: +973 1700 4575 Fax: +973 1772 1722 Printed at Awal Press, Kingdom of Bahrain. Registered with Ministry of Information approval no. TFI-431©. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any manner without the written permission of the publisher. All Rights Reserved. Views expressed in this magazine are not necessarily those of the publisher. Bahrain Bd2 | KSA sr20 | Kuwait Kd1.75 | Oman ro2 | Qatar Qr20 | UAE dHs20

Bahrain Bd2 | KSA sr20 | Kuwait Kd1.75 | Oman ro2 | Qatar Qr20 | UAE dHs20

the multi-award winning Arabian magazine

the multi-award winning Arabian magazine

Leading Through Crisis

How industry leaders in Bahrain are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis

Remembering HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa OctOBEr - NOvEmBEr 2020 | ISSUE 185

Photo by John Doubrava @doobiesnaps_photography

www.Gulf-InsIder.com

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Founding President, American University of Bahrain

AUgUSt - SEptEmBEr 2020 | ISSUE 184

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Complimentary Copy

Dr. Susan E. Saxton

A Tribute to One of the World’s Longest Serving Prime Ministers

www.Gulf-InsIder.com

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The multi-award winning Arabian Magazine

The multi-award winning Arabian Magazine

KEEP DISTANCE | STAY SAFE

Send us your own photo – it could be featured next! Learning to Learn June-July 2020 | ISSUE 183

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As traditional education gives way to virtual learning

APRIL-MAY 2020 | ISSUE 182

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The British School of Bahrain congratulates and sends best wishes to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa His Royal Highness Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa The Crown Prince and Prime Minister

and the people of the Kingdom of Bahrain on the occasion of the

49TH NATIONAL DAY

A school with its roots in Bahrain and growing with the global community.

For more information, visit www.britishschoolbahrain.com Contact us: +973 17610 920 or Whatsapp: +973 39992410 Email us: admissions@thebsbh.com


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Christmas is better with friends, family and food, and Alosra happens to have them all. Celebrate the festive season with Alosra’s range of gifts and delicious food.


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49th National Day Celebrations

The transformation of a Bahrain media company

W

hen Gulf Insider Media was established in Bahrain twenty years ago, back in 2001, the media industry in Bahrain and worldwide was a lot simpler. Newspapers, magazines, radio and TV dominated. Then, in the early 2000s, digital media came on the horizon - and it grew, and grew, and grew‌

The current crisis may be downtime for some businesses, but online media is growing like never before.

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Feature

Bahrain Bd2 | KSA sr20 | Kuwait Kd1.75 | Oman ro2 | Qatar Qr20 | UAE dHs20

the multi-award winning Arabian magazine

Gulf-Insider.com Most frequent visitors Leading Through Crisis

Bahrain

How industry leaders in Bahrain are dealing with the COVID-19 crisis

Dr. Susan E. Saxton

Saudi Arabia

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Founding President, American University of Bahrain

www.Gulf-InsIder.com

UAE

Users

Views

Users

Views

436 K

1M

2.5 M

9.4 M

Jan - June 2019

Today, the way people consume content has changed completely especially for young people. They need a quick and visual story, even videos, to make a big impact. This current Covid pandemic has only hastened the need for such transformation. With people increasingly using smartphones and other digital devices for information, going online has never been more important for any media company. Gulf Insider Media invested in online media early on so that today the company has the largest and most successful social media platforms in Bahrain. Producing videos and other multimedia elements, with a localfocus, is today essential in making news that is relevant and engaging. Advertisers have also made their way into the new media landscape, taking advantage of marketing partnerships, benefitting from original local content that keeps consumers interested

Website Insights

AUgUSt - SEptEmBEr 2020 | ISSUE 184

Jan - June 2020

without overselling their product. The current crisis may be downtime for some businesses, but online media is growing like never before.

Gulf Insider Media invested in online media early on so that today the company has the largest and most successful social media platforms in Bahrain.

Blue Tick Verified

Facebook Fans

455,405 Instagram Followers

14.7k

Online edition at www.Bahrain-Confidential.com

212 Issue

The Best in Bahrain

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Special Edition

49th National Day Celebrations

Bahrain’s 49 National Day

th

‌ a national overview Demographics Bahrain has a total population of 1,501,611 people, with 823,610 being non-nationals. Although the majority of the Bahraini population is Middle Eastern, a sizeable percentage of the population is from South East Asia. In 2008, about 290,000 Indians lived in Bahrain. This makes them the single largest non-national group in the country. Bahrain is the fourth most densely populated sovereign state in the world, with a population density of about 1,646 people per km2. The northern parts of the island are more densely populated than the southern parts. A lot of the Bahraini population is concentrated in the Northern Governorate of the country. The Northern Governorate has witnessed

Aerial view of Manama, 1936 10

Gulf Insider December 2020


Bahrain History

Bahrain Market c1950 such large-scale urbanization that it is usually referred to by some as a single metropolitan area.

Government Bahrain is a constitutional monarchy headed by King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa. The king has a broad range of executive powers. He heads the military, appoints the prime minister, appoints the upper house of the National Assembly,

dissolves the lower house, and chairs the judicial council. Upon King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa becoming Emir in 1999, he introduced several democratic reforms, including establishing an elected council of representatives, giving women the right to vote and run for office, as well as releasing and pardoning exiled and political prisoners. This was carried out under the National Action Charter, which

Bahrain is the fourth most densely populated sovereign state in the world, with a population density of about 1,646 people per km2

A young King Hamad and Shaikh Isa, 1960 Gulf Insider December 2020

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Bab al Bahrain, 1950 was widely accepted by a referendum, with 98.4% in favor, on February 14–15, 2001. As part of the implementation of the charter, the country became the Kingdom of Bahrain. This political liberalization of Bahrain allowed it to sign a free-trade agreement with the United States in 2004. The legislature of Bahrain is bicameral, with a Shura Council and a Council of Representatives. The Shura Council has 40 members who are appointed by the king every four years. The Council of Representatives also has 40 members who are elected for fouryear terms. Laws passed by the Council of Representatives have to be approved by the Shura Council. The king then has to give his assent. If he doesn’t, the law can only be passed by a two-thirds majority of both houses.

Upon King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa becoming Emir in 1999, he introduced several democratic reforms.

the first Middle Eastern woman and the third woman to hold the position. During the Arabian Gulf War of 1990 to 1991, Bahrain was a member of the coalition that acted to free Kuwait. The coalition’s air force operated from the Shaikh Isa Air Base, while its fleets operated from Manama. During this period, the capital was hit by Scud missiles fired from Iraq. At the break of hostilities, Bahraini students in Iraq and Kuwait went missing. It is suspected that they were victims of Saddam Hussein’s secret police.

Foreign relations Bahrain plays a moderating role in regional politics and is one of the founding members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). In 2006, Bahrain was elected to head the UN’s General Assembly. As an appreciation of this honor, the country appointed Haya bint Rashid al-Khalifa as the president of the assembly. She is 12

Gulf Insider December 2020

RAF Buccaneer at Muharraq during the first Gulf War, 1991


Bahrain History

Until 1932, pearling was Bahrain’s biggest industry

During the Arabian Gulf War of 1990 to 1991, Bahrain was a member of the coalition that acted to free Kuwait.

After the successful liberation of Kuwait, the United States of America and Bahrain strengthened their ties by signing a ten-year agreement in October 1991. In 1995, the United States established the US Fifth Fleet in the Arabian Gulf and had its headquarters in Manama. Bahrain took an active part in the coalition that fought to remove the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan in 2001. Due to this, then US president George Bush recognized Bahrain as a major non-NATO ally. Bahrain’s relationship with Iran is

quite tense. This is due to Iran’s role in the attempted 1981 coup by Shiite fundamentalists. There are also Bahraini suspicions of an Iranian role in unrest on the island in the 1990s. Also, occasional claims of sovereignty over Bahrain by Iranian officials exist. The US also accused Iran of sponsoring the 2011 protests in Bahrain. Bahrain has had a long-standing dispute with Qatar over the Hawar Islands. Fortunately, this was resolved in a compromise decision by the International Court of Justice in 2001. Relations between Bahrain and Qatar had improved until 2017, when Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and the Emirates took a stand against Qatar, accusing it of taking part in the unrest in Bahrain and supporting unrest in the region. The country has bilateral relationships with more than 190 countries all over the world. It has 25 embassies to the Arab League, three consulates to the United Nations, and four permanent missions to the European Union. It also has 36 embassies from different countries.

Religion Bahrain has a majority Muslim population, which means that Islam is the official religion of Bahrain. There are no official figures for the proportion of Shias and Sunnas in Bahrain. According to the 2010 census, about 866,888

Khamis Mosque, Bahrain’s oldest mosque dating back to AD 692

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people are Muslim. Islam reflects heavily on the local culture, though Bahrainis are known for their tolerance toward other religions. There is a small native Christian community in Bahrain. However, a combination of expatriates and natives puts the number of Christians at 367,683 as of the 2010 census. There is also a tiny Jewish community in Bahrain. In total, they number about 37.

Languages The official language of Bahrain is Arabic. Th ere is a Bahraini dialect of Arabic that differs significantly from standard Arabic. However, English is widely spoken by most citizens and expats.

Economy Oil is a significant revenue earner for Bahrain. Despite this, the country is seriously diversifying away from the oil sector. It invests a lot in its financial sector and tourism to create an alternative for oil. In 2006, a United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia report stated Bahrain was the fastest-growing economy in the Arab world. Additionally, based on the 2011 Index of Economic Freedom, Bahrain is the freest economy in the Arab world and the 12th freest in the world. The Global Financial Centers Index listed Bahrain as the world’s fastestgrowing financial center in 2008.

The Global Financial Centers Index listed Bahrain as the world’s fastestgrowing financial center in 2008.

Bahrain stamps featuring Shaikh Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, 1953

The first oil well drilled in Bahrain, 1932 14

Gulf Insider December 2020

The financial sector has been able to grow at a rapid pace due to the stable demand for oil during periods under review. Oil is Bahrain’s top export, accounting for 11% of its GDP, including 60% of export receipts and about 70% of government revenues. The second top export for Bahrain is aluminum, while finance and construction materials follow closely behind. About 2.9% of the land in Bahrain is arable, and agriculture accounts for just 0.5% of its GDP. As a result, Bahrain depends heavily on imports for its food. Most of its meat comes from Australia, while it imports about 75% of its fruits. Following the oil price drop in 2016, the kingdom faced some difficulties. This was felt through rapid inflation, the newly introduced VAT tax, and the pulling of support from many statesubsidized goods and services.


Bahrain History

Tourism Represented by the Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority, Bahrain has always stressed the im- portance of shifting the tourism sector to be one of the main contributors to the economy. Bahrain implemented measures to increase the sector’s contribution to GDP to reach 7% by 2018 in an aim to implement the government’s vision toward strengthening the economy in non-oil sectors and to highlight the Kingdom of Bahrain as a regional and global tourism hub.

Women in the economy

The Gulf Hotel was Bahrain’s first five star hotel, built from reclaimed land, it opened in 1969. Today, most of the sea in this photo has been concreted over.

The Economic Development Board expects an annual 5% increase in the contribution of women to the Bahraini economy, to 45.6% in 2020. According to statistics from the Information and Government Authority, the number of Bahraini women joining both the private and public sectors reached 35.7% of the total workforce in 2015. The education and health sectors continued to be favored by Bahraini women. However, the number of women working in financial services, commerce, and construction increased significantly. The relative growth in the number of working women is attributed to the rise in academic qualifications as the percentage of women earning academic certifications reached 60% of all graduates.

Education

Bahrain International Airport, c1932

The 2030 Economic Vision The 2030 Economic Vision, launched by King Hamad Bin Isa alKhalifa in October 2008, embodied a comprehensive vision for the Kingdom of Bahrain that was aimed at creating a transparent approach to developing its economy while focusing on the main objective of improving the living standards of all Bahraini citizens.

Education in Bahrain is compulsory, and all school-age children attend either public or private schools. Children with disabilities attend specialized institutions. The Ministry of Education in Bahrain provides free education for all Bahraini and nonBahraini students in public schools. Additionally, the ministry provides free textbooks in every subject for all students in public schools at the beginning of each academic year. Education in public schools is segregated: there are separate schools for boys and girls, with teaching and administrative staff of the same gender. However, in some instances, boys’

Gulf Insider December 2020

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Special Edition

Bahrain women students on graduation day

Pupils of the Indian School in Bahrain, 1960

Asian institutes have also been established to provide quality education to Asian students.

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Gulf Insider December 2020

public primary schools exist where the teaching and administrative staff are mixed. A choice of coeducation or segregation is available in private schools, while state universities are all coeducational. In addition to British intermediate schools, the island is served by the Bahrain School, a United States Department of Defense school that provides a K–12 curriculum, including the International Baccalaureate. Private schools also exist that offer either the IB Diploma Programme or UK A levels. In 2007, St Christopher’s School became the first school in Bahrain to offer a choice of IB or A levels for students. Numerous international educational institutions and schools have established links to Bahrain.

The University of Bahrain has been established for standard undergraduate and graduate study, and the College of Health Sciences, operating under the direction of the Ministry of Health, trains nurses, pharmacists, and paramedics. Both the Arabian Gulf University and Bahrain Medical University certify physicians. The National Action Charter, passed in 2001, paved the way for the formation of private universities, and over 13 currently operate in Bahrain. Asian institutes have also been established to provide quality education to Asian students. These include the Pakistan Urdu School and the Indian School, which provide for the needs of children whose families hail from the Indian.


Bahrain History

The Muharraq house of pearl tycoon Salman bin Matar. Built in 1905, it was once surrounded by sea. Today it is a museum.

Cultural

The Bahrain Culture and Antiquities Authority (BACA) was established in 2015, with a mandate that includes overseeing the culture sector. The authority is headed by Shaikha Mai al-Khalifa, who played a major role in transforming the cultural scene. The authority took over the old houses to restore and transform them into modern museums carrying the names of those who originally built them. Also, the authority launched the Spring of Culture festival, attracting families and art lovers from around the region, with names such as Fairouz and Andrea Bocelli attending.

Sport

Football is the most popular sport in the country. The national team has participated in the Arab Nations Cup, Asian Cup, and the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers. However, it has never been able to qualify for the World Cup. But, the national team won the GCC Cup for the first time in December 2019. The country also has a Formula One racetrack and has hosted the Bahrain Grand Prix for the past 16 years.

Images used in this feature are from The Old Bahrain TheOldBahrain/ @ theoldbahrain

Friendly match between Bahrain & England to commorate the opening of Isa Town, 1968

The information in this feature has been specially edited for inclusion in Gulf Insider. It is extracted from Kingdom of Bahrain – Political Review, published by Khuzaie Associates. Copyrigh Khuzaie Associates 2020. All rights reserved. This insightful 294 page book can be ordered from Amazon.com (US$80) or purchased in Bahrain from Virgin megastore, and Alayam Newspaper bookstore “Alkashkoul” at a special local price of only BD15. Gulf Insider December 2020

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49th National Day Celebrations

National Day Messages “American University of Bahrain extend their best wishes for Bahrain’s 49th National Day. May it be a prosperous and rewarding year, filled with achievements for the entire Kingdom!”

“Wyndham Grand Manama would like to extend their best wishes to the rulers, citizens & residents of Bahrain on the occasion of the 49th National Day.”

- American University of Bahrain

- Wyndham Grand Manama

“American School of Bahrain wishes the Kingdom’s leadership, residents and citizens a prosperous celebration on the occasion of Bahrain’s 49th National Day. “

“Sofitel Bahrain wishes the Kingdom a prosperous 49th National Day and a future filled with continuous prosperity, development and peace.”

- American School of Bahrain

- Sofitel Bahrain

“With pride and glory AlSalam Specialist Hospital celebrates the 49th National Day of the Kingdom of Bahrain.”

“Crowne Plaza Bahrain wishes the Kingdom of Bahrain, its leadership and its people, a Happy National Day!” - Crowne Plaza Bahrain

“InterContinental Regency Bahrain wishes the Kingdom of Bahrain a Happy National Day! We are proud to be a part of this wonderful nation.” - InterContinental Regency Bahrain

“Our team at The Westin & Le Meridien City Centre Bahrain congratulates the people of Bahrain on the occasion of the 49th National Day.” - The Westin & Le Meridien City Centre Bahrain

- AlSalam Specialist Hospital “The Lanterns family wishes the Kingdom of Bahrain and its people a very happy 49th National Day.” - Lanterns

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Gulf Insider December 2020


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49th National Day Celebrations

Pioneering

Retail Experiences How is Carrefour working towards creating unique shopping experiences in Bahrain?

S

ince UAE-based Majid Al Futtaim — the exclusive franchisee to operate Carrefour in over 30 countries across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, and full owner of the operations in the region — opened the very first Carrefour store in the Kingdom of Bahrain in 2008, it has 20

Gulf Insider December 2020

remained committed to supporting the growth and prosperity of the Bahraini community. “Our ethos is to be a brand that is people-first and community-first. As such, our team is diverse with a strong Bahraini foundation and identity”, Carrefour Bahrain said. As a result of this initiative, Carrefour has created

over 1,200 direct and indirect jobs while operating 13 stores in the Kingdom. They also work with 400 local suppliers and partners across the country, sourcing 90% of the products locally and regionally in a bid to support the local economy. The consumption habits of people have reflected the changes brought


Feature

upon by the pandemic – customers are looking for more contactless services, digitized user experiences and a wider variety of products. Nevertheless, Carrefour Bahrain has managed to provide for their customers and communities through the launch of their innovative services. This includes the new Carrefour app with a new MyCLUB Loyalty Program, the ‘Click and Collect’ service and new initiatives for their private label products, among others. Moreover, Carrefour Bahrain has prioritized sustainable initiative and projects while also taking part in several community engagements. However,

Our ethos is to be a brand that is peoplefirst and communityfirst. As such, our team is diverse with a strong Bahraini foundation and identity.

the group shared that their biggest achievement for 2020 was how they handled the COVID-19 pandemic. “The commitment shown by our colleagues and frontliners during these challenging times proved that our people are our greatest asset and that they are capable of overcoming an unexpected crisis. We are extremely proud of all our colleagues for their ability to adapt and take all necessary safety precautions while liaising closely with local and regional authorities to keep the

communities we serve and operate in safe”, they added. This season, Carrefour will be providing a wide array of offers and promotions for the Bahrain National Day, the festive season and the New Year. Looking forward, Carrefour Bahrain will continue to provide unbeatable value while pioneering new retail experiences: “We will continue to work towards creating unique shopping experiences that ensure Carrefour is the shopping destination of choice for all of Bahrain’s residents. Most importantly, we want to continue creating great moments for everyone, everyday”.

80008899 @carrefourbahrain www.carrefourbahrain.com

Gulf Insider December 2020

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49th National Day Celebrations

a mission to help Nearly 60,000 expats have been reunited with their families and over 120 chartered flights have been operated by Dadabhai Travel.

A

s travel restrictions continue across the globe, more and more people struggle to go back to the comforts of their home countries. Amid the pandemic, Dadabhai Travel has taken the lead in helping people reunite with their families and loved ones through their reliable chartered flights. In this mission, Dadabhai Travel has helped over 58,173 people on more than 120 flights to get back to their families. Just recently, the agency has operated 100 exclusive chartered flights from Saudi Arabia. Sixty of these chartered flights were on the Kingdom’s national carrier. No other travel agency has managed to operate such number of exclusive chartered flights in the country. The highest standard of quality that the agency is providing is evident in the number of flights they’ve been able to organize. “We are reliable, transparent and we go the extra mile. At the end of the day, the passenger doesn’t have to

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Gulf Insider December 2020

worry about anything as we always get the job done in the best way possible. Their only concern should be getting home safe and being with their loved ones; every other responsibility is ours”, Adnan Gilitwala, Director of Dadabhai Travel said. At the time of writing, Dadabhai Travel has repatriated over 13,096 travellers from Bahrain. Six chartered flights were operated in the country. Furthermore, over 100 flights have been operated in Saudi Arabia and more than 22,159 travellers have flown back to their home countries. Meanwhile, over 2,118 people have been repatriated from Kuwait and three chartered flights have been operated so far. In the UAE, over 19,000 passengers have been repatriated to their home countries. A total of 10 chartered flights have been operated. The agency has been able to set another milestone when they successfully operated a flight from the UAE to Bagdogra Airport

(India). It was the first time in the aviation history of Bagdogra that an international flight landed in their airport. Repatriations foster a sense of collaboration and camaraderie wherein different types of businesses come together to take care of people. “We’ve been more than happy to reunite people with their loved ones. We are looking forward to countries opening their borders and flight schedules becoming more regular”, Adnan shared. These are tough times – nevertheless, Dadabhai Travel will continue setting a great example of how travel agencies should be operating amid the pandemic and beyond.

For more information, call +973 17103030 www.dadabhaitravel.com


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49th National Day Celebrations

Academic Excellence Gulf Insiders talks to Dr. Susan E. Saxton, Founding President of the American University of Bahrain.

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Gulf Insider December 2020


Feature

H

ow is your organization contributing to the development of the Kingdom of Bahrain?

We are extremely proud of how seamlessly students moved to an online modality, achieving great results in the face of adversity.

In general, the AUBH quality of American-style education mirrors that of the best universities in the United States, and we are the first of our kind in the Kingdom. Through our unique academic philosophy, students will be equipped to identify their interests and passion and focus their attention on following the path they find personally suitable. This approach runs through everything we do, and so creates a unique caliber of graduate which AUBH will become synonymous with in Bahrain.

What makes your University special? Many things! True to our Americanstyle curriculum, with AUBH, students can change their mind with regards to their major. They have two years of general education courses common across all colleges, giving them the skills to be productive, to find their own resources, to self-assess. We discovered that this way we can enable students to find their real passions

rather than being forced to choose a path too early – they ‘learn to learn.’ We envision a new league of graduates, empowered with the ability to think critically and add real strategic value to the field they choose to enter.

What are your main takeaways from the past year? Overall – with creativity and innovation, as educators we can adapt to the most challenging conditions and still maintain the quality of our student experience. Also, that AUBH’s Class of 2023 are an amazing group of young people whose resilience will help them on the road to a lifetime of success. During our campus closure we had to innovate at all levels, not only in teaching and learning but in ways of staying together as an AUBH community, maintaining connectivity in times of physical separation. More than ever, in the past year we had a responsibility to help our students through this period, and with this in mind we developed AUBH’s “Culture of Care” philosophy. This philosophy lays out the foundation for the creation of a positive University environment, which Gulf Insider December 2020

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underscores respect; professionalism; mental and physical well-being; engagement and collaboration; work-life balance, and social responsibility.

Any achievements in 2020 that you want to highlight? We are extremely proud of how seamlessly students moved to an online modality, achieving great results in the face of adversity. A big part of our success in virtual learning was having tech-savvy tools already in place before

of California Berkeley, University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), and California State University, Northridge (CSUN), AUBH’s proposed academic partner. U.S. regional accreditation, recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), holds the highest level of quality assurance at the institutional level for higher education. The accreditation process usually takes five years and is guided by rigorous eligibility criteria, including an inspection visit from WSCUC Commission members.

Looking forward, what are your plans for the next year?

We are thrilled to announce that we have submitted six new degree programs to the Higher Education Council for approval, which we hope to offer in September 2021.

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the pandemic, which allowed for a quick transition without missing a day of teaching. We have recently announced a major milestone – we are officially seeking U.S. regional accreditation through the WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC), which invited us to apply after reviewing our Expression of Interest (EoI). AUBH is the only institution approved to seek eligibility for accreditation by WSCUC in Bahrain. If accredited by WSCUC, AUBH would be among a handful of universities that are accredited in the MENA and GCC regions. Other U.S. based universities accredited by the WSCUC include Stanford University, University

The plans are endless. The CSUN partnership is progressing, and we are exploring accreditations with a number of field specific accreditors. We are also expanding and diversifying our STEMoriented academic portfolio. We are thrilled to announce that we have submitted six new degree programs to the Higher Education Council for approval, which we hope to offer in September 2021. These degree programs will be aligned with CSUN, hence presenting our students with mobility, and “an international passport” to other institutions on a global level. In terms of enrollment, we are looking for students with exceptional academic performance and who are motivated to succeed in an Americanstyle environment that includes a focus on social and employment skills. Growing our student body is not a numbers exercise but a long-term strategy to nurture and complement the most valuable human resources in the Kingdom.

www.aubh.edu.bh +973 7799 9997


Unlock Tomorrow Experience an American-style University right here in Bahrain.

As Bahrain’s first American-style University, our approach fosters interaction and collaboration among students, faculty and the professional community. AUBH Students are presented with opportunities to realize their professional and personal goals, through an engaging student-centric environment, aiming to equip them with the skills and knowledge to unlock their tomorrow.

For a lifetime of success. | Apply now: +973 7799 9997 | aubh.edu.bh | #AUBH


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49th National Day Celebrations

Enriching

Holistic Education Learn more about what makes the British School of Bahrain stand out.

K

nown for offering a prestigious, holistic, UK based education, the British School of Bahrain is continuously innovating their practices to further develop the quality of education they are providing. With the support of Inspired, a global educational group of over 65 schools, 28

Gulf Insider December 2020

BSB is supporting the development of education for all children and young people within Bahrain. When asked about what makes their school special, BSB said that their school is a caring and supportive community that places the child at the centre of all decisions. “The School strives to offer a vibrant and diverse

international culture of endeavour and scholarship that empowers every child. Through this, we will encourage strong moral values and a feeling of community spirit�, they shared. For BSB, four factors have stood out as contributing to their success in 2020: the importance of collaboration, supportive parents who trust the


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The School strives to offer a vibrant and diverse international culture of endeavour and scholarship that empowers every child.

school, resilient and grateful students, and a clear focus on longer term improvements. “While all schools have had to face the challenges that 2020 has thrown at them. BSB has continued to shine as a beacon of excellence not just within Bahrain, but within the international community. The success of our developments has been for the greater good of the Kingdom as it is now becoming rightly known for its flourishing educational community”, the School said. According to BSB, the highlight

document will capture the ambitions of Inspired and the BSB parental community, to see the School continue to be a leading school within the entire Gulf Region. Significant investment in the existing campus, the establishment of a second campus and the redesign of sporting facilities will all accompany our ongoing teaching and learning enhancement”, BSB commented. “BSB never wants a child to miss out on an outstanding education”, a principle that has guided them throughout the global pandemic. For a limited time,

of 2020 has been the significant investment of time and finances in technology. This year has seen their approach to teaching accelerate by 5 years as they have propelled further into an online based educational experience. Looking forward, BSB shares that the new year will bring significant improvements to the campus. “2021 brings with it a great sense of hope and BSB is enormously grateful for the leadership of the Kingdom of Bahrain who have managed the COVID-19 pandemic with aplomb. BSB now looks to the future as we embark on our next five-year development plan. This

they are running a ‘referral scheme’ for BSB parents. Furthermore, those who wish to enroll their child now or next year can speak to their highly professional admissions’ team.

@BritishSchoolBahrain +973 1761 0920 www. britishschoolbahrain.com Gulf Insider December 2020

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Special Edition

49th National Day Celebrations

Reinventing Education How is the American School of Bahrain reinventing education and what makes it different?

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he key to the economic and social success of any country is ordinarily a quality education system and Bahrain is a country where education is encouraged and celebrated. Hence, the American School of Bahrain aims to contribute to the Kingdom for many years to come, by offering a challenging American and international education that inspires students to pursue their passions, achieve their goals and become responsible global citizens. As a school, ASB works hard at creating a culture of kindness, sense of belonging, and an atmosphere where it is okay to take risks and fail in an attempt to improve. They also have a state-of-the-art campus and utilize technology in their day-to-day education. Furthermore, they are an Esol Education school. It is worth noting that even though ASB is an international school, they provide a very comprehensive Arabic and Cultural program for all of our

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We are thrilled that we successfully opened our brandnew school right in the middle of a world pandemic. students including those who learn Arabic as a second language. On top of that, their staff and teachers are all experienced internationally and have vast experiences in their fields. “We are thrilled that we successfully opened our brand-new school right in the middle of a world pandemic. With careful preparation we have taken steps to ensure parents of our students are comfortable sending their children to school each and every day.” ASB shared that 95% of their students are in school from Sunday to Thursday, and have

never needed the students to attend in shifts and learn remotely. ASB is expecting their student numbers to double next year – a response to their inaugural months with satisfied parents and students. Several discounts are in place for families who have three or more children enrolled in the school. “We look forward to continue developing our ethos and atmosphere where students and staff love to come to school each and every day, where students feel they are part of something very special and that every adult in the building cares deeply for their learning, their well-being and their future. After that, everything else will fall into place”, ASB commented.

Tel: +973 1721 1800 Email: info@asb.bh www.asb.bh


Happy National Day Kingdom of Bahrain’s

His Majesty the King Shaikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa His Highness the Crown Prince & Prime MInister Shaikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa and the people of Bahrain.

We pledge our continuing support to the King, his Government and people, and look forward to our contributing to the prosperity of the nation both now and in years ahead.

P O Box 26810, Manama, Kingdom of Bahrain, Tel. +973 1782 2388 Fax. +973 1772 1722 e-mail: info@ArabianMagazines.com www.ArabianMagazines.com


Special Edition

49th National Day Celebrations

customer-centric Yara Salman, CEO of Hospitalia by Yara, YBL and Haute Health, shares some insights on what makes her companies special.

H

ospitalia by Yara, Haute Heath and Yara Beauty Lounge are companies that have made their names by providing innovative services to the people of Bahrain. According to Yara Salman, the group of companies’ CEO, their lifetime mission is to “position Bahrain as a hub for innovation and technology, foster cordial relations through import and export business”. They also aim to provide job opportunities to the citizens of the Kingdom, facilitating economic growth, employment and an improved quality of life. What makes Yara’s businesses special is that they are customer-centric: “It’s quite common nowadays for companies to view customers solely

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My plans are to stay safe and keep the people surrounding me safe until this all fizzles out. as consumers, completely disregarding the opportunity of a more complex and interdependent relationship. We have no interest in going down that road. We are committed to customer- centricity and building long term strong relationships that don’t start and finish with a transaction predicated only on financial

and material drivers”, she commented. Yara says that surprising their customers with exciting offers during statutory holidays and pivotal times of the year is a tradition they always hope to cherish and keep. Just recently, they had a Black Friday sale which turned out to be a huge success. They are also planning for several Christmas offers which are consistently being updated on their Instagram pages. On a more personal note, Yara shares that the highlight of her year is graduating from the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI) with a Master’s Degree. She says she feels fortunate to be able to pursue her career and dreams all whilst she continues to learn and educate herself. “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world. Wise words said by the revolutionary Mandela”, she added. When asked about her plans for the next year, Yara answers “I have untold plans for the following year and the future but how the pandemic might play out in 2021 is beyond my knowledge or control. My plans are to stay safe and keep the people surrounding me safe until this all fizzles out.” She added. “It is encouraging to know that vaccines are reporting promising results”.

@hautehealthbyhospitalia @hospitaliabyyara +973 16 010 999


Special Edition

Bahrain to open new airport early 2021

Bahrain: BTEA announces plan to sink another jet Months before, when a rogue trawl-boat went berserk over Bahrain’s underwear park destroying a sunken Boeing 747, the news left many a people around the world heartbroken. Now reduced to a pile of wreckage, the 70-meter long Boeing 747 located 20 to 22 meter below the sea level was the result of years-long effort. The old plane, built-in 1981, was submerged to encourage divers, enthusiasts and researchers around the world to dream big, only to become a nightmare. “But not any more,” says The Bahrain Tourism and Exhibitions Authority. BTEA has decided to mend those shattered hearts by taking yet another big plunge. The authority is looking forward to replacing the damaged jet based around 30 kilometres north of Amwaj with another. BTEA has initiated a search for companies to replace the damaged jet. Interested parties, BTEA said, should be able to dismantle, process and equip a 747 aircraft to be used within the marine park. “These actions include removing all components of the aircraft so that the structure remains intact,” the statement said. In the meantime, the authority said it is also moving ahead with plans to install more underwater models in the park to make the experience more delightful. Upcoming next in the marine park will be a traditional pearl merchant’s house designed and built with the support of Diyar Al Muharraq. “Teams are currently working on it,” BTEA said adding works are also progressing to install artificial coral reefs and other sculptures. “This would encourage the growth of coral reefs and develop a sustainable habitat for the marine ecosystem to prosper,” BTEA statement said. The new structures will also contribute to enhance the driving experience and make it more enjoyable both for tourists and diving enthusiasts, added BTEA. The project, which offers 100,000 sq m of activities and trails for divers, will also encourage marine researches and enhance awareness about marine life and the importance of preserving them. 34

Gulf Insider December 2020

Bahrain’s new airport will be inaugurated early next year, according to a senior civil aviation official. The facility was originally due to open last March, but the inauguration was delayed due to the global coronavirus pandemic. “It is a very ambitious project and one of the most important infrastructures in the kingdom,” Mohammed Al Kabi, the undersecretary of Civil Aviation Affairs at the Transportation Ministry said. “The first stage of the airport is ready. Operation will begin early next year. We are checking operational procedures at the airport related to air safety, transport and safety to ensure compliance with rules set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation,” he added. Stretching on 220,000 square metres, the 1.1 billiondollar facility has a travel capacity of up to 14 million passengers annually. Like elsewhere in the world, Bahrain’s aviation sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19, with the number of passengers in Bahrain having declined by 75 per cent over the past 10 months compared to the same period in 2019, Al Kabi said. The flights landing in and departing from Bahrain, meanwhile, dropped by 60 per cent compared to last year, he added. However, he cited a 3 per cent increase in the country’s air shipping against 2019.


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Special Edition

Kuwait: Expat accidentally throws 8,000 dinars in trash bin An Egyptian expatriate worker accidentally threw 8,000 Kuwaiti dinars (Dh96,000) in a trash bin in Al Jabriya area in Kuwait, local media reported. When he realised his blunder, he went to the garbage site looking for the cash but did not find it as the bin had already been emptied into a municipal truck, which removed all trash bins at the site. He remembered that he threw the trash bag containing the cash along with other waste bags in the garbage dump. The worker then approached a police station where he filed a report telling policemen his story and showed them the copy of a cheque of 8,000 dinars that he had earlier cashed from a bank. The police launched an investigation into the incident to ensure he was telling the truth, to help him find the sum although there was little chance of that happening.

WHO chief Tedros warns pandemic not over, despite vaccines progress Recent progress on Covid-19 vaccines is positive but the World Health Organization is concerned this has led to a growing perception that the pandemic has come to an end, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. Tedros said the pandemic still had a long way to run and that decisions made by citizens and governments would determine its course in the short run and when the pandemic would ultimately end.

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Oman to introduce income-tax on top earners Oman will impose tax on individuals earning higher incomes from 2022, Ministry of Finance said in the mid-term fiscal plan 2020-2024 report. The government is aiming to increase its revenues to OMR 12.1 billion with a total spending of OMR 12.6 billion by the end of 2024.

Bahrain launches online registration for COVID-19 vaccination Bahrain’s Ministry of Health urges citizens and residents to register online for the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine by visiting the following website: https://healthalert.gov.bh through the provision of a safe vaccine free of charge to the Kingdom’s citizens and residents. The Kingdom’s National Vaccination Programme, overseen by the National Medical Taskforce for Combatting the Coronavirus (COVID-19), will provide vaccinations at 27 health centres across the Kingdom. The vaccination steps include • First dose of the vaccine: Day 0 • Second dose of the vaccine: Day 21 • Antibodies against the virus start to develop in the body: Day 35


News Roundup

Bahrain: Rapid tests not used ‘instead of’ PCR tests

Saudi: Labour Reform Initiatives come into effect on March 14, 2021 The Ministry of Human Resources and Social Development (MHRSD) launched a Labor Reform Initiative (LRI) under the National Transformation Program (NTP) that aims to support the Ministry’s vision of establishing an attractive job market, empowering and developing labor competencies and developing the work environment in the Kingdom. The initiative allows job mobility and regulates the Exit and Re-Entry Visa issuance. It applies to all expatriate workers in the private sector and includes specific control measures put in place to take into account the rights of both parties of the contractual relationship. The reforms come into effect on March 14, 2021. Employee mobility will allow expatriate workers to transfer between employers upon the expiry of the binding work contract without the employer’s consent. The Exit and Re-Entry Visa reforms allow expatriate workers to travel outside Saudi Arabia without the employer’s approval after submitting a request: the employer will be notified electronically of their departure. The Final Exit Visa reforms allow the expatriate worker to leave the Kingdom after the end of the employment contract without the employer’s consent and will notify the employer electronically with the worker bearing all consequences (financial or otherwise) relating to breaking the employment contract.

In one of the press conferences held recently, the National Taskforce for Combating Coronavirus (Covid-19) monitoring committee head Lt Col Dr Manaf Al Qahtani said that rapid tests are not a replacement for PCR tests. The rapid examination does not dispense with the PCR examination in the event that the result is positive. If the rapid test result is negative, then there is no need to report it. The Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test remains the approved diagnostic tool used in Bahrain.

Middle East airlines’ traffic dives 86.7% in October Middle Eastern airlines saw an 86.7 per cent traffic drop for October, improved from an 89.3 per cent demand drop in September, the International Air Transport Association (Iata) said. The recovery of passenger demand globally also continued to be disappointingly slow in October, Iata said. Airlines in the Middle East saw capacity dropping 73.6 per cent, and load factor declining by 36.6 percentage points to 37 per cent in October. International passenger demand in October was down 87.8 per cent compared to October 2019, virtually unchanged from the 88 per cent year-to-year decline recorded in September. Capacity was 76.9 per cent below previous year levels, and load factor shrank 38.3 percentage points to 42.9 per cent. Gulf Insider December 2020

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Tribute

a fond farewell Remembering One of the World’s Longest Serving Prime Ministers.

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he Kingdom of Bahrain is mourning the passing of HRH Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, who was one of the longest serving prime ministers in the world. We are honouring his memory, legacy and significant developmental achievements to the island. In the late 1950’s and the outset of the sixties, late HRH the Prime Minister took up many key posts like presidency of the Education Council, chairmanship of the Monetary Council and the Administrative Council and

Prince Khalifa has served as the Prime Minister of Bahrain since 1970, taking office over a year before Bahrain’s independence on August 15, 1971.

more. His assumption of a wide range of responsibilities played an essential role in establishing the nucleus of the state’s government body, launching the development march and laying a solid foundation for Bahrain’s economic growth. Prince Khalifa has served as the Prime Minister of Bahrain since 1970, taking office over a year before Bahrain’s independence on August 15, 1971. During the early years of his service as a prime minister, Bahrain saw a rapid development especially when the Kingdom sought to move beyond Gulf Insider December 2020

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Tribute

He was also interested in ancient artifacts such as weapons and cars. However, the hobby that Prince Khalifa loved was drawing and photography.

its dependence on oil. He worked on improving the living conditions of citizens and developing various economic sectors. He was one of the leading figures in making Bahrain a financial, service and tourism hub. Prince Khalifa was not only a good politician but also a charismatic person. According to our sources, he enjoyed going on walks regularly as it gave him the opportunity to meditate and ponder on the issues that concern him. He had an affinity for agriculture, horticulture and was interested in birds and wildlife. He was also interested in ancient artifacts such as weapons and cars. However, the hobby that Prince Khalifa loved was drawing and photography. Over the years, HRH has received

many accolades and awards. In 2009, he was given the Visionary Award 2009 of the Union of Arab Banks. The next year he received the Millennium Development Goals Award from the United Nations. In 2016, he became the first Arab Prime Minister to be honored by the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) for being among the leaders who strongly supported the use of ICT in achieving sustainable development goals. Moreover, Prince Khalifa was the first Arab Prime Minister to receive the following awards: The Flame of Peace Award from the Association for the Furtherance of Peace, Austria as well as The Arab League Shield for Leadership in Arab Development. Gulf Insider December 2020

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Art by Kathrina Ragadi

Tribute

HRH Prince Khalifa was the first Arab Prime Minister to receive the following awards: The Flame of Peace Award from the Association for the Furtherance of Peace, Austria as well as The Arab League Shield for Leadership in Arab Development.

In 2017, a new city in Bahrain was named after the Prime Minister. “Khalifa Town” was named after him in recognition of his landmark achievements and valuable contributions to the nation. The “Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa Award for Sustainable Development” was also launched to honor his success in improving the path for development in Bahrain. Prince Khalifa’s contributions to the Kingdom will always be remembered and he will remain an inspiration for all the years to come.

Gulf Insider December 2020

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Special Edition

Bahrain plans to vaccinate over 5,000 people daily

Saudisation: Private firms hire 2,225 Saudis to avoid fines A recent report showed that there are 2,225 Saudis who have been employed during the recent period by private sector establishments under a scheme of settling violations imposed on them. These firms took advantage of the violation settlement service, launched by the ministry earlier, in exchange for an increase in the rate of Saudization. According to the conditions, in order to benefit from the violation settlement service, the firm must give a commitment to employ Saudi citizens for a full year, and the firm’s Nitaqat category should be green or higher, in addition to approving the employee’s minimum salary of SR4,000 or more. The ministry recently approved a regulation under which the Saudi employee’s wage should not be less than SR4,000 to be counted as one Saudi for Nitaqat Saudization program. In the new service, the ministry stipulated that the establishments need not pay the fines for violations through taking advantage of the violation settlement service. The business owner shall chose the specific violations and make a request to settle them by attaching special files such as work contracts and insurance certificates for the number of Saudis and non-Saudis. Accordingly, the request will be processed instantly, the ministry said. The employer shall hire the Saudi employee after the date of the imposition of the penalty and his name shall be registered with the General Organization for Social Insurance before attaching his data to the settlement request. In the event of termination of the Saudi employee, the firm must employ a substitute with the same conditions within 30 days from the date of the warning or the settlement service would be canceled. The conditions also include that the number of Saudis at the time of the settlement request must be less or equal to the number of Saudis before the date of the settlement request, and that the same employee is not used for more than one settlement of violations by an establishment. It is also stipulated that the owner of the firm shall respond to the requests and inquiries of the settlement team within a period not exceeding seven days and otherwise the settlement request will be canceled automatically. 44

Gulf Insider December 2020

Bahrain has aimed at providing a COVID-19 vaccine free of charge across 27 medical centres and various plans and preparations were discussed. These plans include vaccinating those over the age of 18 years of age, with a capacity of vaccinating five thousand individuals per day, and working to expand this programme to reach ten thousand vaccinations per day. The National Medical Task Force to Combat the Coronavirus will be providing a vaccine which is approved by the World Health Organization and the National Health Regulatory Authority.

Dubai to auction number plates; highest face value at Dh1.7 million The Roads and Transports Authority (RTA) in Dubai has announced the auction of 90 distinguished number plates on December 19. The special numbers include 18 in AA series and 13 in R series, which are placed for auction with a face value of Dh1.7 million each. In an advertisement released on Thursday, the RTA said registration for the auction will begin on December 13. The auction will take place at 4.30pm on December 19 at InterContinental Dubai in Festival City.


News Roundup

Bahrain: MPs propose strict laws for defaming people on social media Amazon Payment Services launches in the Middle East and North Africa Amazon announced the launch of Amazon Payment Services, a payment processing service in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region with a mission to empower businesses with simple, affordable, and trusted online payment experiences. The newly launched Amazon Payment Services provides secure online payment services that are easy-to-use, leveraging Amazon scalable and reliable technologies. Established in 2013 as one of the first Fintech companies in the region, PAYFORT has gained a deep understanding of businesses’ needs across the region. In 2017, Amazon acquired PAYFORT as part of the Souq Group acquisition. Since then, the focus has been on integrating PAYFORT and Amazon offerings to provide businesses with a convenient and trusted service. With the launch of Amazon Payment Services, businesses that use the service will continue to have access to a range of payment services that enables them to accept online payments using both global and local payment methods, offer installments to the customers to make purchases affordable for their customers, and monitor payment performance round the clock. As of today, PAYFORT is Amazon Payment Services. Amazon Payment Services processes transactions for thousands of businesses across multiple industries, ranging from aviation to travel and tourism, retail, insurance, real estate, government, and more. With such a diverse customer base, it has built strong expertise that supports businesses at every scale, from small and medium enterprises (SMEs) looking to establish their online presence to large-scale enterprises requiring a dependable payment service to handle high volumes of transactions safely. Amazon Payment Services also has a wide range of partners, including leading banks such as RAKBANK, First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB), Mashreq, The Saudi British Bank (SABB), Al Rajhi Bank, Riyad Bank and National Commercial Bank (NCB). Partners also include local card schemes such as MADA, and Meeza, and international card schemes such as Visa, and MasterCard. New businesses using Amazon Payment Services, will be able to easily accept online payments by choosing from selection of services that fit their customer needs and access rich content to help them with their digital transformation. Amazon Payment Services has also introduced new and enhanced services that will allow businesses to serve their customers better, including detailed reports with actionable insights and real-time monitoring of their payment activities. As part of the new set of services, businesses can get better transaction authentication and reduce friction at checkout. Businesses can also build their own dashboard by merging their data from different sources which helps them track and meet their goals.

A committee in the Bahraini parliament has approved a draft bill criminalising slander and defaming people on social media. The draft endorsed by the legislature’s Foreign Affairs, Defence and National Security proposes tough penalties in libel cases. According to the panel’s recommendation, acts of online slander and defamation should be punishable by jailing and a maximum fine of BD20,000. The bill will introduce a new addition to Bahrain’s law No 60 issued in 2014 about information technology offences. The motion has yet to be approved by the kingdom’s legislature.

To learn more about offerings from Amazon Payment Services, please visit: paymentservices.amazon.com Gulf Insider December 2020

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Special Edition

Oman gives 10-day free visa entry to 103 countries Oman will exempt nationals of 103 counties from needing an entry visa for a stay of up to 10 days, in a move to support tourism and shore up its struggling economy. Visitors must have a confirmed hotel reservation, health insurance and a return ticket, Royal Oman Police said on its Twitter account. “Nationals of 103 counties are exempted from entry visas into the Sultanate for a period of ten days,” it said. Oman last week said it would resume granting tourist visas to people visiting on trips arranged by hotels and travel companies, after they were suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Bahraini ministry plans to replace expats by 2024 Bahrain’s Ministry of Works and Municipality Affairs plans to replace its foreign employees with citizens by 2024. Around 446 foreigners are currently working at the ministry, accounting for some 17 per cent of its overall workforce, Minister of Works and Municipality Affairs Essam Khalaf told parliament. The total cost of their employment, housing and transport allowances as well as air tickets and their families ‘accommodation over the past two years has been BD17 million, he added. “As part of the ministry’s efforts to Bahrainise jobs, it has terminated contracts of 49 foreign employees since 2018,” the official said.

Saudi fund helps more than 73,000 women to own homes More than 73,000 Saudi women in the Kingdom have benefited from mortgage loans provided by the Real Estate Development Fund (REDF) as part of its efforts to enable women to own their first home. The general supervisor of REDF, Mansour bin Madhi, said that enabling Saudi women to own housing had been part of the fund’s policy since its inception, as they constituted half of society and were the foundation of accelerating development. He said that the fund worked on facilitating and simplifying real estate financing procedures to empower all citizens to receive subsidized mortgage loans through electronic and immediate procedures. The policy enabled women to own housing in accordance with the subsidized mortgage loan scheme’s terms to achieve the goals of the housing programs — one of the Saudi Vision 2030’s initiatives — which includes raising the rate of citizens’ home ownership to 60 percent by the end of 2020 and 70 percent by 2030, he said. 46

Gulf Insider December 2020


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Special Edition

49th National Day Celebrations

Dr. Hamid Haqparwar

#NextGen Interview with Dr. Hamid Haqparwar, Managing Director of BMW Group Middle East

W

hat was the inspiration behind #NextGen?

The concept of #NextGen has been developed a couple of years ago. Nowadays, people are becoming more and more digital savvy; they prefer to have the latest information within a very short timespan. At BMW, we decided to refocus our product launch strategies by transitioning into a digital concept. #NextGen is a first-of-its-kind platform where we elaborate about our

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technologies and showcase our latest innovations. It has various content hubs which contains highlights, discussions, videos and more information on our new products. We have started preparing for this global digital event long back and it was certainly fun for us to see the reaction of the audience.

How difficult was it to transition to doing this totally digitally after years of doing everything through physical events? The transition was quite easy as we

have been preparing for this for a while. As I’ve mentioned, we have already made significant progress in reducing our carbon footprint by going more into digital spaces. The idea, strategy and vision of #NextGen was already there so the main challenge was more about the bandwidth – to be able to perform such a premium event on a global scale. The outcome however, was very positive. There were no technical glitches and overall, it was a very entertaining approach towards launching our products and concepts.


Feature

How has your strategy changed to reflect the current situation? The major thing that COVID-19 has revealed is that digital transformation needs to happen much faster than we have anticipated. Being in it and hopefully past it in the near future, we could see that digital transformation is something that would stay. In the automotive industry, customers would be more keen on having less physical touch points with the showrooms and more digital platforms to connect, communicate

This digital transition has already been a part of our strategy before but the coronavirus crisis helped us to really speed up the process.

and experience cars. We have already started this last year in the region when we introduced a lot of virtual showrooms where our customers can book for test drives, pay for a car and have it delivered online. In terms of our employees, we have enhanced our mobile working setups so that our staff can effectively and flexibly work from home. This digital transition has already been a part of our strategy before but the coronavirus crisis helped us to really speed up the process.

What does the future of mobility look like for the BMW Group? It’s very difficult to anticipate the future. This is the reason why we believe in creating our own future. Mobility goes into different directors and as you know, BMW is the provider of premium individual mobility. Individual mobility and personal space are becoming more important – hence, consumers may look for a different interior in the future. In #NextGen, we presented the MINI Vision Urbanaut, a redefined interior vision in a future of automated driving. Apart from that, electrification and emission free driving are also important. In the region, BMW is pioneering in offering hybrid cars. Ten years ago, we have launched the first Hybrid 7 Series. Furthermore, we have shown you our flagship fully electric car in #NextGen, the iX. The entire concept of mobility and

driving experiences is driven by the needs of its consumers. That’s why BMW is collaborating with similar partners who have the same vision of providing a tailor made experience.

What steps are you taking to strengthen the Middle East dealer network? You can see that we’re doing a major refurbishment of Euro Motors, the authorized BMW showroom in Bahrain. The refurbishment includes the use of the latest stat-of-the-art technology in Augmented Reality (AR). It will be the latest and the most innovative showroom in the region. This is only half of the story. The other half is our virtual showrooms where you can basically go online and virtually check out every car that we have on stock. There is also a price transparency where you can look at the prices and financing schemes. These elements that have been put in place have been a part of our strategy over the last couple of years. Right now, we are happy that we have right tools and instruments to navigate through this pandemic and beyond.

What new milestones would you like to achieve, both in terms of yourself as a Managing Director and for the company? Let’s start with the company. The topic of electrification is very important for our region. When we launched our electric vehicles, there was a strong demand in here, even now with the iX. Launching these concepts here would be a milestone. I would really like to see those cars being embraced by our customers alongside the digitalization of our products and systems. On a personal level, it’s been my second time being in the region. I’ve been working here for almost five years and I love it; it’s my home. When I took over the role of being the Managing Director of BMW Group Middle East, I started a restructuring strategy for the region. This strategy is now being implemented together with my team and I see myself continuing it to create an added value for our employees, business partners and most importantly, our customers. Gulf Insider December 2020

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Image Credits: Dr. Khalid Khan,

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