Bahrain blocks land sales to expats


A change in the law allowing expats to buy residential plots in Bahrain has been blocked by the country's parliament.

In axing the proposals ministers said allowing foreigners to buy such land would lead to a significant spike in property prices, which would be to the detriment of Bahrainis.
However, the timing of the move was criticised for harming the Gulf state's attempts to attract foreign investors to the politically volatile country.
Mahmood Al Mahmood, parliament financial and economic affairs committee vice-chairman and secretary for Bahrain, said that under current property laws approved by the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) all Gulf nationals are treated as Bahrainis.
The GCC includes Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman.
He said: "If we open the door for expatriates to purchase residential plots in Bahrain then a new market will emerge in which GCC nationals purchase bulk plots and then sell them off to the highest expatriate bidder.
"This in return will affect the availability of residential plots for Bahrainis, which are at the moment limited, and also prices would go up and this means that many Bahrainis will be unable to afford to buy residential plots."
Under the bill, which was rejected this week, expats would have been able to buy residential plots that are not more than 2,000 square metres. However, they would not have been able to sell it until four years have lapsed.
Despite Bahrain's recent political protests there has actually been an upturn in new expats settling in the Gulf state, particularly from the oil and gas industry employees.
This has also pushed up waiting lists for international schools.
Civil unrest did contribute to a softening of rents in Bahrain in the last year, with rents falling by about six per cent in popular expat areas.
Property agents Cluttons in its latest report said however that rents have started to stabilise, though this is partly due to the lack of new properties coming on to the market, as many of the larger projects are being delayed or put on hold.
There is some price stability in popular areas such as Amwaj, Jasra, Hamala, Saar and Janabiya, and well-maintained compounds with good facilities and security are proving to be more popular than individual villas.
Other areas have suffered more significant losses due to their close proximity to areas of unrest.
Last week a human rights group launched court action to stop banks in Bahrain imposing travel bans on foreign workers involved in disputes or owing money.