The results of a major survey carried out in the Middle East and North Africa were out last week and it turns out that Bahrain is the place to be in the region. Yes, on the face of it there are competitive enclaves like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar but somehow they have not been able to make the mark.
Come to think of it, if you look at the historical landscape of, say, the last 20 years or so, a good number of places in the region have fallen by the wayside [which means fallen way down on the survey list] due to insurgency, open war, political upheaval, economic downturn, social turmoil and sundry other reasons. Egypt is one leading example, and there are Libya, Tunisia, Syria and Iraq. Iran was never on the list anyway. Qatar, Kuwait and the UAE are far too expensive and the pace of life far to frenetic to make all except the creamy layer really happy.
So it comes as no surprise that in the Bayt.com and YouGov Top Cities in the Middle East and North Africa Survey for this year, Bahrain’s capital Manama has been placed in the top 5 in various categories. Indeed it is top city based on economic factors – the most significant criterion for any city – and even on the score of labour rights stands third, which is saying a lot.
Also, the happiness factor is high in Bahrain. The survey found that 79% of the residents were “very happy” to “somewhat happy.” Certainly not unhappy. And this collective happiness is what keeps the island state [or the city state] ticking. Similarly, employment opportunities are good to excellent according to 3 in 10 respondents and 35% of respondents believed the salaries were good to excellent.
Other important factors in Bahrain include benefits for working parents, personal career growth and reasonably-priced amenities, good to excellent end-of-service benefits, holiday allowances and health insurance and social security systems. The living standard in Bahrain is generally high among the top 20 cities surveyed in the region. On the score of healthcare, quality of education, security and stability too Manama scored way above 50%.
It’s also a quite business-friendly place, ranked among top three for starting a business with taxes and fees at at affordable level.
More remarkably, the crime rate was counted as low in the survey, and the people were satisfied with gender equality, fair treatment for all nationalities and tolerance for different cultures, ideas and religions. Bahrain is one of the few places in the region which has the places of worship of all religions, has a thriving Jewish community, and a very large number of cultural clubs and associations various nationalities. The sports, culture and recreation scene also scored favourably.
But ultimately it is the liberal spirit which pervades Bahrain and the authorities’ attitude of not interfering or prying into your personal life – what you believe, what you drink, what you wear, where you go – that sets the tone of the civic life and sets the country apart from the other enclaves in the region.