Social media attacks: A week in politics

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20-27 April 2016

This week, a major theme in the media was regional diplomacy following a visit to Bahrain by the King of Morocco and King Hamad’s own visit to Egypt.

The Shura Council approved the CEDAW bill, after a three hour debate in which most Shura MPs agreed that the legislation was the right decision for the empowerment of Bahraini women.

Throughout the week a major subject of discussion has been formal complaints lodged by Parliament against specific social media accounts which were considered to be abusive and libelous, many of the concerned tweets were attacking MPs for approving the CEDAW legislation.

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Xenophobia – The ABC of civil society

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The benefits of civil society for Bahrain and for you.

Civil society is based on the idea of looking at citizens and all fellow human beings as equal and deserving of support. The evils of sectarianism, xenophobia, racism and all forms of discrimination divide society against itself.

Therefore, all people active in the field of civil society should see it as a priority to fight prejudice and sectarianism, while encouraging tolerance, reconciliation and national unity.

This also means ensuring fair representation of minorities, women and those with special needs in your organization and making sure that the rules and practices are not discriminatory and do not unnecessarily exclude anybody.

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First for Bahrain: US-Bahrain free trade agreement

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The Bilateral Investment Treaty between the US and Bahrain was signed on 31 May 2001 after two years of negotiations. This was the first significant free trade agreement with the US and the first such treaty signed between the United States and any of the six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

The treaty aspired to stimulate private investment between the two countries and it was also a strong international message of support for King Hamad’s reform programme, after ascending to the throne in 1999 and putting his new constitution to a referendum on 14 February 2001.

A year later, both sides went a step further and signed the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement on June 18, 2002. This agreement paved the way for negotiations towards a full Free Trade Agreement between the two parties. It was described as being a forum for bilateral dialogue on economic reform and liberalization and encouraging two-way trade.

The major breakthrough was on 11 January 2006, as the United States-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement first came into force (signed September 14, 2004). Immediately as the agreement took effect, all two-way trade in industrial and consumer products began to flow without tariffs.

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Bahrain’s economy continues to grow

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Given all the negative economic reporting from Bahrain and the GCC region over the past year, many could believe that Bahrain’s economy was in steep decline. In fact, the latest economic statistics prove that Bahrain has been performing very well.

When we look at non-oil growth of the economy, it is at a respectable 3.9 percent for 2015 (according to the Bahrain Economic Development Board’s Economic Quarterly). When the oil sector is factored in as well, economic growth for the year still registers at 2.9 percent.

This was possible because Bahrain’s oil sector’s share of GDP fell to just 19.7 percent in 2015; in comparison with some countries in the region where oil’s share of GDP approaches 90 percent!

So, while we can say that Bahrain’s economic diversification efforts have been highly successful, we have to acknowledge that the Government Budget’s dependence on oil revenues remains very high (somewhere in the region of 70 percent). This has entailed an urgent programme of eradicating wasteful expenditure and reducing the subsidy burden (see below).

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