Jobs for young 'key to tackling violence'
Manama, April 27, 2014
Bahrain should focus on providing young people with jobs to steer them away from street violence and terrorism, said a top diplomat.
Focusing on the country's young generation was crucial to ending threats to Bahrain's security and stability, US Ambassador Thomas Krajeski was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
He hopes new business deals signed with American companies would play a role in creating scores of new jobs for Bahrainis.
The self-proclaimed 'hard-line ambassador' spoke to the GDN about his optimistic predictions for Bahrain's economy, the growing business ties between Washington and Manama, and his belief that the National Dialogue was the only way to solve the ongoing political crisis.
"The National Dialogue is absolutely the way forward," he said. "Without a resolution, without a solution, all of the other problems remain that much more difficult to solve.
"With an agreement we can begin to tackle some of the other issues in Bahrain and immediately the economic climate would improve. There's an old saying in my business that when countries have troubles the two most effective things you can do is to educate women, which Bahrain does very well, and give young men jobs.
"That is what Bahrain really needs to work on and if you asked the Crown Prince I bet you he would give you the same answer. These young people get angry, they don't see an opportunity, they don't see a future and they get angry with their government. This happens all over the world, in the UK and the US and it is happening here. The leadership in Bahrain needs to really focus on this issue."
Krajeski said he hoped a new BD6.9 million ($18.2 million) deal between American consultancy company Hill International and Bahrain Airport Company would result in scores of new jobs for Bahrainis.
He explained the company will bring in between 30 and 40 workers from abroad and employ a potential 60 Bahrainis as they help to manage the expansion and modernisation of Bahrain International Airport over the next four years.
GENCO, currently one of the largest logistic companies in the world, has also signed a contract with the US Navy and plans to establish its first overseas headquarters in Bahrain with the hope of branching out to the wider GCC region.
The deals were made on the sidelines of the American-Bahrain Friendship Week, which featured a series of cultural, art, music and sporting activities to celebrate long-standing friendship between the two nations.
"The corner has been turned for American companies; frankly as I'm sure my colleagues will tell you, it has been a difficult time to persuade American companies to look at Bahrain," said Krajeski.
"We were trying to keep companies here while some of them were downsizing their operations or moving their offices elsewhere in the Gulf. But now it is heartening to see companies turning around and those that stayed are holding on and looking to expand."
Kraft cheese, or Mondelez as it is now called, established a factory in Bahrain in 2006 and is planning a huge expansion over the next few years.
American company Great Lakes Dredge and Dock, responsible for much of the expansion of the island over the last 20 years, also has a number of new projects in the pipeline.
"Things are looking up, it's a slow process and people are still concerned about security so when there is an incident here we do get questions," added Krajeski.
"We work very closely with our American companies on security and personal security as well as with other embassies and the Interior Ministry.
"When three policemen were killed last month in a bomb blast, these incidents spiked concern but there is also a general concern about when the political parties and the government will be able to resolve their differences and begin to reduce the daily violence that occurs?
"There are many in the government, led by His Majesty King Hamad and the Crown Prince, trying to find a way to reach a resolution and I know there are many in the opposition side as well, in Al Wefaq, who are dedicated to this," Krajeski said.
"It's a difficult situation and it's a factor when it comes to new businesses coming here, but I will say, today it is safe to do business in Bahrain, it is safe to bring your family to Bahrain, your children and your spouses.
"My 93-year-old mother-in-law lives with us, she loves Bahrain and this is the only place in the Middle East where US military personnel bring their families and they live in the neighbourhoods all over the island. But I think we still have a lot to do here that's very important for both our countries."
Since his appointment in 2011, Krajeski has sparked outrage among political figures and legislators. MPs accused him of supporting opposition groups and having a "volatile" agenda against Bahrain.
Last month, Krajeski was criticised for his leadership style and poor media image in a US State Department report.
Assessors said his failure to maintain a robust planning and review process led to a lack of focus among staff and sidelined economic activities. – TradeArabia News Service