Bahrain to re­move meat sub­si­dies as cheap oil hits bud­get



Bahrain will re­move gov­ern­ment sub­si­dies on meat from Sept. 1, al­low­ing do­mes­tic prices to rise, state news agency BNA re­ported as the gov­ern­ment sought to save money as low oil prices pres­sure its bud­get. Like other oil ex­port­ing Gulf states, Bahrain has for many years sub­sidised goods and ser­vices such as meat, fuel, elec­tric­ity and wa­ter, keep­ing prices ul­tra-low in an ef­fort to buy so­cial peace.

Since last year, the sub­si­dies have be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for gov­ern­ments to af­ford as oil prices have plunged, slash­ing ex­port rev­enues. Bahrain, with much smaller oil and fi­nan­cial re­serves than its Gulf neigh­bours, has been par­tic­u­larly hard hit.

So Bahrain has been ex­am­in­ing pos­si­ble sub­sidy cuts and the re­moval of sub­si­dies from meat could even­tu­ally be fol­lowed by sim­i­lar moves on other goods and ser­vices. How­ever, Bahraini cit­i­zens will be com­pen­sated for the higher meat prices, BNA quoted In­dus­try and Com­merce Min­is­ter Zayed bin Rashed alZayani as say­ing late on Satur­day.

Zayani did not spec­ify how much prices might rise by or give de­tails of the com­pen­sa­tion for cit­i­zens. Pre­vi­ously of­fi­cials have said cit­i­zens would re­ceive cash pay­ments; for­eign­ers, who com­prise about half of Bahrain's pop­u­la­tion of roughly 1.3 mil­lion, would not be com­pen­sated.

BNA quoted Zayani as say­ing the re­moval of sub­si­dies would help stim­u­late meat im­ports into Bahrain by en­cour­ag­ing more im­porters to get in­volved. He did not elab­o­rate. Also Zayani did not re­veal how much money the gov­ern­ment ex­pected to save by re­mov­ing meat sub­si­dies. A state bud­get ap­proved last month en­vis­aged a deficit of 1.50 bil­lion di­nars ($3.98 bil­lion) in 2015, up from an orig­i­nally planned deficit of 914 mil­lion di­nars last year.

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