Uncertainty over Bahrain-Saudi connecting Causeway

Traffic for trade and emergency purposes continue

  
Image used for illustrative purpose. King Fahd Causeway, road heading towards Bahrain.

Image used for illustrative purpose. King Fahd Causeway, road heading towards Bahrain.

Getty Images/Abbasi

King Fahad Causeway is not expected to resume normal operations before October, according to a top official.

Mumtalakat chief executive Khalid Al Rumaihi said the sole road link connecting Bahrain with Saudi Arabia would be opened gradually in the fourth quarter of this year.

The causeway has been closed to passenger traffic since March as part of precautionary measures to limit the spread of Covid-19.

However, traffic for trade and emergency purposes continue, and on July 24 the bridge was reopened to let Saudi citizens in Bahrain return home.

In addition, from Sunday Bahraini trucks were allowed to resume their trips to Saudi Arabia.

But there has been no official announcement, either from the Saudi or Bahraini authorities, about a timeframe for reopening the causeway.

Mr Al Rumaihi said the causeway remaining closed posed the biggest challenge to Bahrain’s economy since “we rely so much on Saudi in terms of customers and purchasing power”.

The GDN earlier quoted Finance and National Economy Minister Shaikh Salman bin Khalifa Al Khalifa as saying that travel through the causeway had plummeted by 99 per cent and by 98pc at Bahrain International Airport since the Covid-19 outbreak, while flights had reduced by 79pc.

It was also revealed that visitors to shopping malls had dropped by 91pc, while hotel occupancy dropped by 72pc, and fuel sales reduced by 32pc.

Meanwhile, the chief of Bahrain’s sovereign wealth fund said while demand would recover slowly over the next 18 months, there was looming uncertainty about how consumers would purchase goods and services.

“Bahrain is no different from the rest of the world and any business has to look at preserving itself and its liquidity and ensure it can weather a slow growth in demand over the next couple of months,” said Mr Al Rumaihi.

Hailing the speed with which the government moved to assist businesses and the direct support in the form of a stimulus package, he said what was done over the past few months was “unprecedented”.

“Waiving utility bills, Tamkeen aid and direct grants to SMEs (small and medium enterprises) that bore the brunt, paying the salaries of Bahrainis, deferment of loans have all given a lifeline to companies and individuals.

“I saw the impact on our own portfolio, the largest employers got millions in payments over the last few months.”

However, Mr Al Rumaihi warned that the global economic situation remained challenging.

“I think we have not seen the worst of it yet, there is more turbulence to come.”

A report by Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, a Japanese bank holding and financial services company, last week said this year will record the deepest recession Bahrain has experienced in more than 30 years, and would have been even more severe was it not for the less stringent restrictions than elsewhere in the region (the Oxford Stringency Index peaked at 78, whilst in Kuwait it hit the ceiling of 100).

avinash@gdn.com.bh

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