'Greed usually overcomes fear' when it comes to investing in the Gulf, says Bahrain development head

  • "Greed usually overcomes fear, investors do a risk-reward analysis and they've always seen the reward," Khalid Al Rumaihi told CNBC's Hadley Gamble.
  • Al Rumaihi spoke to CNBC as the Gateway Gulf Investor Forum, organized by the EDB, got under way in the Bahraini capital Manama.
  • The forum is centered around discussions and workshops on the region's economic transformation and investment opportunities, in Bahrain and beyond.

Despite tumultuous events in the Middle East, the financial gains offered to investors usually trump concerns about the region's stability, the chief executive of the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) told CNBC Wednesday.

"Greed usually overcomes fear, investors do a risk-reward analysis and they've always seen the reward," Khalid Al Rumaihi told CNBC's Hadley Gamble.

"There's a 50 million population just in the Gulf, hyper capital income, massive investment infrastructure, that outweighs the conflicts that they might see in the region."

Al Rumaihi's comments come after President Donald Trump said the U.S. would withdraw from the Iranian nuclear deal, raising question marks for investors over the region's stability and its relations with Iran. Al Rumaihi said conflict was nothing new, however.

"We're not new to conflict and that's not going to change the dynamics we see and the potential for growth."

Al Rumaihi spoke to CNBC as the Gateway Gulf Investor Forum, organized by the EDB, got under way in the Bahraini capital Manama. The forum is centered around discussions and workshops on the region's economic transformation and investment opportunities, in Bahrain and beyond.

Over 500 global investors and business leaders are taking part, the EDB said, with the forum a way to explore opportunities being created by the economic transformation in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

Al Rumaihi said the region was at a turning point. "We think it's an inflection point, we want foreign investors to be a part of that change."

Manama, Bahrain
Phil Weymouth/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Manama, Bahrain

He added the forum would cover both micro and macro discussions and described Bahrain as an investment hub, alongside other neighboring hubs in the region.

He noted that incentives for companies to invest in Bahrain included allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of companies in a variety of sectors and, Al Rumaihi said, Bahrain has a "very liberal, forward-thinking government."

Diversification from oil

He also said that Bahrain's economic transformation was part of its move away from oil, despite a massive oil discovery recently announced by the country.

"Oil ... It's a finite resource and by necessity we need to wean ourselves off it," he said, although he remarked that only 20 percent of Bahrain's gross domestic product (GDP) was derived from oil.

Diversification is a process, he said, "there are no short cuts, it takes time to change the dynamics of an economy."

The event is showcasing major regional investment-ready projects worth $18 billion, with projects in the planning phase driving up the value of the pipeline to $26 billion, Bahrain's EDB said ahead of the forum.

The country is also fast tracking substantial public and private sector investment projects worth over $32 billion across the manufacturing, logistics, infrastructure, health care, education, and tourism sectors, the EDB noted on the Gateway Gulf website, "supporting the kingdom's goal of long-term, sustainable economic growth."

"Sustainable economic growth" is something of a catchphrase in the Middle East as economies, particularly major oil exporters, try to diversify their economies away from oil.

In particular for host Bahrain, there are high hopes that the forum can promote the best the small kingdom has to offer in terms of strategic growth areas. It sees these areas as manufacturing, real estate, tourism, transport and power.