A massive oil discovery made in Bahrain won't stop the ongoing process to diversify the economy, the country's industry and commerce minister said Wednesday.
In early April, Bahrain's Oil Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Khalifa announced Bahrain's biggest discovery of hydrocarbon deposits in decades. The deposits are estimated to be of at least 80 billion barrels of tight oil and between 10 and 20 trillion cubic feet of deep natural gas.
Still, Bahrain's Minister of Industry, Commerce and Tourism, Zayed Al Zayani, insisted the country would not be distracted from its economic reforms by the find, a boon for the smallest oil exporter in the Gulf.
"Well, (the oil find) is a gift from God and you shouldn't say no to gifts from God," Al Zayani told the audience at the Gateway Gulf Investment Forum in Bahrain on Wednesday.
The oil discovery comes at a welcome time when Bahrain's budget deficit is predicted to be 11.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018. Oil prices have risen too, close to the $75 a barrel level, making the find more valuable. Bahrain is the oldest, yet smallest, oil producer in the Gulf.
Al Zayani said moves to diversify the economy away from oil (55 percent of its total exports is in oil) would continue regardless.
"We're sticking the course, what we found, the recent discovery, is something additional. It will no doubt have a positive impact in growing our GDP, it will no doubt have more contribution from the oil and gas sector to the GDP, but I think we should act wisely and use the revenues generated from this find to develop our economy and diversify it even further," he said.
He said the country needed to use the funds gained from the oil to invest in infrastructure, reduce national debt and invest in human capital.
"The most undersold asset we have in Bahrain is the Bahrainis. We don't market them often enough and they are what makes this economy strong and growing."