The ascension of Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa to the Prime Minister role in November 2020 represents a new phase for Bahrain, with many exciting prospects and opportunities.
Crown Prince Salman entered this role following years of leadership positions. Along with serving as First Deputy Prime Minister since 2013, he played a leading role in transforming Bahrain’s economy, as well as being the driving force behind promoting entrepreneurship, tourism and national reconciliation. Here we look at the domains in which Prince Salman’s influence is already having a transformational role in the Kingdom’s future direction:
“Only through the genuine application of a just and fair and inclusive legal system will people feel that their own rights and their own futures are protected” Prince Salman, 2012.
The Crown Prince has been a consistent champion of democratization and good governance. He has always stressed the importance of a harmonious working relationship between the Government and Parliament in order to maximize public interest.
During a meeting with chief editors of the local media, the Crown Prince highlighted planned reforms in many sectors. He stressed that appointments for the future Cabinet would be based on competency, emanating from the will of the people and Parliament.
The Crown Prince acknowledges the central role of the legislative authority in the decisions-making process. This falls in line with the King’s reform process and the National Action Charter that set the cornerstone for democratic life and reform in Bahrain.
“We must do more to change laws which still can lead to, in my opinion, judgments which go against protections guaranteed in our constitution. We must do more to stop the selective enforcement of law,” Prince Salman, 2012.
He was a principal figure in backing the 2012 constitutional amendments for further empowering MPs, along with electoral reforms for ensuring a fairer and more representative voting system. The Prince has always been a vocal champion of media freedoms and upholding freedom of speech. He played a central role in encouraging a more open political climate in the years after the launch of the 2002 National Action Charter.
Fighting the pandemic
“Covid does not discriminate based on race, ethnicity, religion or social class,” Prince Salman, 2020.
The success of the National Task Force for Combatting Coronavirus is one of the greatest signs of Prince Salman’s success. Under his supervision the National Task Force was able to provide COVID tests and now vaccinations to both citizens and residents of other nationalities with complete equity.
As of early 2021 Bahrain boasted the second highest per-capita rate of vaccinations in the world; rapidly reaching the most vulnerable segments of society, before moving onto the general population. Unlike other countries where citizens are provided with only one option for the vaccine, Bahrain offers several options, leaving the choice to people themselves. The Prime Minister has been personally directing each stage of this effort.
Promoting competent leadership
Recent changes in the Prime Minister’s Court have been viewed by many Bahrainis as indicators of the beginning of a new era for good governance. During early 2021 a series of high ranking appointments took place, demonstrating a complete transformation in the composition of executive staff. Within this promotion of fresh technocratic figures is a contingent of vibrant young professional Bahraini faces, taking the lead in the Court.
The promotion of young and highly-educated figures is perceived as an indicator of youth empowerment in society where majority of the population are young, but have often struggled to find jobs commensurate with their skills.
This is a society which has traditionally faced barriers to change and reform, due to deeply-entrenched old-school management systems in the government and public sectors.
GCC unity and combatting extremism
“I call on you to discard the term ‘war on terror’ and focus on the real threat which is the rise of this evil theocracy… We are not only fighting terrorists. We are fighting theocrats,” Prince Salman, 2014.
Crown Prince Salman was a strong supporter of reconciliation efforts to restore relations between Qatar and the GCC states, which bore fruit in the GCC summit this January. He has always supported an assertive and united foreign policy towards Tehran. For example he has emphasized “the importance of the participation of regional countries in any negotiations on the Iranian nuclear file” in order to support “security and stability in the region.” He has a long record of support for efforts to promote peace and prosperity in the wider region, in support of diplomatic solutions for conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Libya, Palestine and elsewhere.
Prince Salman has vocally opposed extremism and terrorism, denouncing groups like Al-Qaeda and Daesh as “theocrats” who seek to destroy the region and undermine the Islamic faith. Consequently, Bahrain consistently played a key role within the coalition for combatting ISIS along with other multilateral activity to guarantee regional security.
“We will continue to work closely, side-by-side, to guarantee that our economies remain competitive, fair and open, creating a shared social and economic environment in which innovation creates opportunities of the future for all,” Prince Salman, 2020
As chairman of the Economic Development Board (EDB), Crown Prince Salman personally oversaw the 2008 launch of Bahrain’s Economic Vision 2030, which sought to maximize economic development for improving the living standards of all citizens. He has also championed education and vocational opportunities for enhancing the readiness of young and highly-skilled Bahrainis for the challenges of the national workforce.
The Prince has personally spearheaded a series of initiatives for facilitating and encouraging inward investment into Bahrain, for example; new electronic processes allowing companies to complete registration processes for doing business in Bahrain in under 24 hours. As Chairman of the Higher Committee for Natural Resources and Economic Security, in 2018 Prince Salman announced the discovery of new oil and gas reserves, offering prospects for a significant boost to the Kingdom’s future revenues.
In the challenging global economic environment created by Covid and other obstacles, Prince Salman has pledged to continue prioritizing economic development
National unity and citizens’ rights
“I believe that only through face-to-face dialogue will any real progress be made,” Prince Salman, 2012.
Following the 2011 unrest, Prince Salman was the dominant figure communicating with all parties with the goal of promoting national unity and encouraging the different sides to participate in a reconciliation process. He championed the findings of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry’s investigation into these tragic incidents and personally oversaw the implementation of the BICI’s recommendations.
Prince Salman’s appointment as Prime Minister is thus seen as a long-term guarantee of a political system which governs in the name of all its citizens, while guaranteeing the freedoms and rights of all components of society, along with the different faiths in the Kingdom which worship according to their various doctrines.
“Regaining the pulpits to avoid them being hijacked by incompetent politicians or preachers who have moved away from the nation’s interests and asserting the nation’s mandate is the starting point in our efforts to achieve a sound religious orientation” Prince Salman, 2010.
Change is a long and continuous process. Bahrainis look at the Crown Prince as a ray of hope. Although the road to change will be accompanied with many challenges, we believe in the progressive vision of Prime Minister Salman Al Khalifa and his ability to overcome these challenges. We hope and pray that the coming period will be a continuation of Bahrain’s stability and progress as a regional and global player.
Crown Prince Salman’s background
Prince Salman has long been preparing to ascend to the Prime Ministerial role, having been appointed in 2013 as first deputy prime minister, with responsibility for overseeing the Kingdom’s executive agencies and government institutions. Indeed, Prince Salman has already been presiding over Cabinet’s meetings due to the late, lamented Prime Minister, Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa’s ill-health.
Crown Prince Salman has three decades of experience of serving in senior roles, having been appointed as vice-chairman of the Bahrain Centre for Studies and Research in 1992; Undersecretary of Defence in 1995; and becoming Crown Prince and commander-in-chief of the Bahrain Defence Forces from 1999, then deputy supreme commander of the armed forces in 2008.
In 2002, Prince Salman was appointed chairman of the Economic Development Board, making him one of the foremost officials responsible for managing economic policy, while masterminding a succession of initiatives for promoting economic expansion and facilitating foreign investment into the Kingdom. The Kingdom’s successes in moving away from dependence on oil towards a balanced economy with a thriving private sector, is in large part a testament to the Prince’s achievements.
Having graduated from Cambridge with a M.Phil. degree in History and Philosophy of Science, he is regarded as an intellectual with a progressive vision for the Kingdom, rooted in a strong economy, excellent ties with regional and global states, and an open and tolerant society amenable to tourism and foreign investment.
Throughout his years of public service, Prince Salman seized the opportunity to establish excellent relationships with the leaderships of countries around the world; including America, Europe and the Arab world. His strong ties with GCC leaders guarantee Bahrain’s continuing relevance as a foremost regional state.
Those close to the Crown Prince note that his charismatic, outgoing and good-natured personality has been an asset in building these relationships, along with his reputation for honesty and pragmatism in promoting Bahrain’s interests.
Over the past decade, the Crown Prince has been a foremost voice in the region speaking out against religious extremism and calling for more tolerant and nuanced understandings of the Islamic faith, while urging dialogue between religions and cultures. In a keynote 2014 speech, he warned that the principle confrontation across the region was between the forces of moderation and those he designated as theocrats. He described the ideology of entities like Daesh and Al-Qaeda as “fascist theocracy”.
Perhaps most important of all is the Crown Prince’s outstanding reputation as a unifying figure. In the aftermath of the 2011 unrest, it was Prince Salman who took the initiative in reaching out to opposition groups and respected figures from across Bahrain’s society for spearheading reconciliation efforts. Over the following years, the Prince pursued a further series of reconciliation initiatives. Indeed, he was the only leadership figure continuing to publically engage with opposition leaders over this period. This prepared the ground for constitutional amendments and electoral reform in an effort to address grievances.
King Hamad and Prince Salman took the initiative in appointing the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry for thoroughly investigating the 2011 events and publishing a detailed report. The BICI’s recommendations were accepted in full and the Crown Prince took a personal interest in following up on implementation.