HM the King’s address further shed light on the Kingdom’s comprehensive vision regarding regional and international issues that concern the Arab nations, particularly the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and the Kingdom of Bahrain’s position for a just and comprehensive peace with the establishment of an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital, based on the Arab Peace Initiative.
The Cabinet then went on to commend the turnout for volunteering for the COVID-19 clinical trials, adding that the Kingdom has received 6,000 volunteers over a period of 6 weeks. The Cabinet noted that this turnout reflects the awareness and noble humanitarian values exhibited by the Kingdom’s citizens and residents in support of national efforts aimed to combat the virus. In this regard, the Cabinet noted the importance of ensuring a further 1,700 volunteers are available to guarantee the success of the clinical trials and to identify the availability of a safe and effective treatment for the benefit of mankind.
The Cabinet praised the diplomatic and humanitarian achievements of the Amir of the State of Kuwait, HH Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, which received international recognition, adding that the Amir’s efforts have had a positive impact on all.
The Cabinet called for reducing tension between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory. The Cabinet highlighted the importance of resorting to dialogue and peaceful methods to resolve differences within the framework of international law and UN Security Council decisions in order to achieve security and stability in the region and the world.
Following the meeting, the Cabinet Secretary-General, HE Dr. Yasser bin Issa Al-Nasser, made the following remarks:
1. Following the Royal Directives of HM the King to unify national efforts aimed at combating the repercussions of the global spread of the COVID-19 in order to preserve the health and safety of the Kingdom’s citizens and residents whilst sustaining the Kingdom’s national economy, the Cabinet decided on the following:
• The government will continue to pay 50% of the salaries of insured Bahraini citizens working in the most adversely affected enterprises within the private sector for a period of three months, starting from October 2020 – a move that will benefit 23,000 Bahraini citizens and 4,000 establishments.
• The Cabinet approved a Draft Law adding a new clause (No.5) to Paragraph (c) of Article (8) of Decree-Law No. (78) of the year 2006, regarding insurance against unemployment and recommending its promulgation in accordance with Article (38) of the constitution.
• The payment of 50% of the salaries of a total of 524 uninsured employees in kindergartens and nurseries for a period of 3 months starting from October 2020.
• To extend the wage support provided by the Kingdom’s Labour Fund (Tamkeen) for an additional 3 months, starting from October 2020, at the rate of 150 dinars per month to support 950 taxi drivers, public transport drivers, and 829 driving instructors.
• The exemption of tourist facilities from tourism fees for an additional 3 months, starting from October 2020.
2. Based on a recommendation made by the Government Executive Committee, chaired by HRH the Crown Prince, the Cabinet approved a Draft Law amending some provisions of the law no (3) of the year 2005 on higher education.
The amendments aim to separate the supervisory and operational processes of the sector, by restructuring the Higher Education Council and granting it independence from the Ministry of Education.
The Draft Law will transform the role of the Higher Education Council from an operator to a supervisory role, by expanding its supervisory duties over practical and academic aspects of the higher education sector. Moreover, the Council will be able to further develop educational policies and strategies to improve the performance of the sector and encourage investment.
The Draft Law provides further amendments aimed at developing and improving the performance of the Kingdom’s education and training sectors, in line with best practices.
3. Based on a prepared report ordered by HRH the Prime Minister from a committee established to review laws and regulations to ensure tight control over the dispensing of medicine within government and private pharmacies, HRH the Crown Prince directed for a committee comprising of the Minister of Finance and National Economy, the Minister of the Shura and Representatives Council, the Minister of Electricity and Water Affairs, and representatives from the Office of the First Deputy Prime Minister, the Ministry of Interior, and the Supreme Council of Health, to supervise, undertake and implement the technical, administrative and legislative recommendations from the report, and ensure that immediate measures are taken related to accountability, governance, all storage, distribution, sale and review requirements for medicines, especially narcotic drugs, and review the relevant laws and regulations in this regard.
4. The Cabinet approved a government memorandum to be submitted to the Council of Representatives to implement the effect of the Constitutional Court’s ruling regarding the fall of the work of the two parliamentary investigation committees on the causes of economic recession, and regarding the fairness of the distribution criteria for housing requests as well as the cost of building housing units, taking into account the technical conditions in designing housing units in implementation of the ruling issued by the Constitutional Court application No. (H / 1/2020) for the (18) judicial year at a session on Wednesday 9 September 2020, presented by HE the Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Ministerial Committee for Legal and Legislative Affairs.
5. The Cabinet approved an amendment of the Law on Prohibition and Combating Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing promulgated by Decree-Law No. (4) of 2001, regarding the prohibition and combat of money laundering and terrorist financing with the recommendation to issue it in accordance with the provision of Article (38) of the Constitution, presented by the Minister of Interior.
The amendments are within the framework of implementing the recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and in compliance with the recommendations of the FATF and international standards.
Among the most important provisions included in the amendment is the redefinition of funds to include all assets, property and economic resources, regardless of their description or nature, unifying the definition of terrorism with the Law on Protecting Society from Terrorist Acts, and amending the terms of reference of the Committee for Establishing Policies to Prevent and Combat Money Laundering and others.
6. The Cabinet approved the restructuring of the Ministry of Interior in order to add the National Centre for Cybersecurity to the organisational structure of the Ministry. The department is to report directly to the Minister of Interior.
The organisational structure of the centre consists of a Chief Executive with the rank of undersecretary, followed by the Deputy CE for cyber operations with the rank of assistant undersecretary and a number of other directorates, in light of the memorandum submitted for this purpose by the Minister of Interior.
7. The Cabinet approved an amendment of the law on regulations over registration, safety and control related to small vessels, by assigning registration and safety regulations to the Ports and Maritime Affairs at the Ministry of Transportation and Telecommunications.
The security role is to be assigned to the Coast Guard at the Ministry of Interior.
8. The Cabinet approved the introduction of an electronic multi-entry tourist visa for US citizens that is valid for 10 years and costs the same price as the current 5-year visa, and allows its holder to reside in the Kingdom for 90 days provided that it is submitted electronically. The Cabinet further approved a draft resolution on the Decree No. 196 of 2014 amending the fees for services of the Nationality, Passports and Residence Affairs, to be issued by the Minister of Interior.
9. The Cabinet reviewed the Bahrain Economic Quarterly Report for the second quarter of 2020, presented by the Minister of Finance and National Economy. The report reflected the economic performance of the Kingdom’s key economic sectors in light of the exceptional circumstances posed by the global spread of COVID-19. The report indicated a decrease in the Kingdom’s GDP by 8.9% at constant prices on an annual basis.
The oil and gas sector registered an annual growth rate of 3.2% at constant prices, and the non-oil sector recorded a decline in annual growth of 11.5% in constant prices. The government services sector, the Kingdom’s third biggest non-oil sector in terms of the percentage of contribution to the GDP, registered slight growth of 0.1% which was driven by the increase in government expenditure addressing the global pandemic. The electricity and water sector also registered 34.9% growth.
Indicators further revealed that the non-oil sectors contributing mostly to the GDP, respectively, are the financial projects sector by 16.8% the manufacturing industries sector by 14.4%, followed by the government services sector by 14.3%.
According to competitiveness indicators, the Kingdom of Bahrain ranked second in the Arab world and first in the Gulf region as the most free economy in the 2020 Index of Economic Freedom issued by the Fraser Institute, which measures the extent to which institutions and policies support economic freedom in 162 countries around the world.
The Kingdom of Bahrain has also achieved an improvement in a number of sub-indicators within the Global Innovation Index 2020, as the Kingdom’s performance advanced by 24 ranks in the sub-pillar “Trade, Competition and Market Size”, and the city of Manama was also ranked as the most attractive in the world in financial terms in AIRINC’s 2020 Global 150 Cities Index issued by the AIRNIC Foundation, which measures how attractive each city is to live in.
In the items of Ministerial reports, the Cabinet took note of the results of the high-level event on the UN Sustainable Development Goals, in which HM the King received an invitation to participate in from the Secretary-General of the United Nations and His Majesty seconded the Deputy Prime Minister Sheikh Khalid bin Abdullah Al Khalifa to attend.
The Cabinet reviewed a report submitted the Minister of Education on the outcomes of the meeting of Arab Ministers of Education, and further reviewed the outcomes of the 59th meeting of the Trade Cooperation Committee, the 47th meeting of the Industrial Cooperation Committee of the GCC countries, and the 112th session of the Executive Council of the World Tourism Organization, which were presented by the Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism.