Born in the village of Jasra, Bahrain on 3rd June 1933, Shaikh Isa bin Salman was educated at the court of his father where he watched the interplay of political forces with society in determining the course of the country. A quick learner, he grew into an astute leader who possessed the foresight to shape policies that heralded an unprecedented era of prosperity for Bahrain in the Twentieth Century.
His reign was, in the most profound sense, an era of institution-building. During the period of 1961 to 1999, Isa bin Salman diligently worked to elevate Bahrain's international status among the economically, socially, culturally and scientifically advanced countries of the world. His reign was crowned by securing Bahrain's independence in 1971.
Entrusted with notable responsibilities, the young Isa bin Salman held many positions, which would ultimately enhance his leadership acumen and prudence as a head of state. In 1953 he was appointed to the Trusteeship Council, and served as Chairman of Manama Municipality (the nation's capital) from 1952 until he assumed power in 1961. Isa bin Salman was also the Chairman of the Khalifa Council and the Irrigation Council from 1952.
Officially Bahrain's Crown Prince from 1957, it was a mere four years later that Isa bin Salman ascended the throne after his father's death in 1961. The Amir swiftly marked his leadership with a series of economic reforms and established the Bahrain Monetary Council in 1964. Under his leadership, the Monetary Council replaced the Gulf Rupee, which was the currency of Bahrain and the other Gulf Emirates, with a new currency unique to Bahrain and thus, the Bahraini Dinar was circulated for the first time in 1965.
Formulating a blueprint to achieve Bahrain's independence, Isa bin Salman propelled the necessary institution-building for an autonomous state. In 1970, he established the State Council. Always forward-looking, when Isa bin Salman chaired the first session of the State Council, he explained, "This council is the first step towards our desired goals aiming at serving this precious homeland. However, your mission and duties should not distract you from the most important goal of the establishment of this council: to study future organisational requirements and the economic planning needed for the country's development and advancement."
A proponent of democratic reforms and institutions, Isa bin Salman initiated the establishment of a Constituent Assembly. In 1972, the Bahraini people went to the ballot boxes to elect 22 members who would be responsible for writing Bahrain's constitution. After finalizing the constitution, the Amir issued a decree in 1973 making election provisions for a National Parliament of 30 elected members.
The architect of a modern economy, the late Amir's collaboration with the Saudi King Faisal Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud to build the 25 kilometre King Fahd causeway, which was inaugurated in 1986, continues to shape and drive the Kingdom's economy to this day. Bahrain's status as a regional financial hub in the Middle East is also attributed to Isa bin Salman's prudent economic policies. During his reign, Bahrain's reputation as a liberal economy and polity flourished, and consequently, many international banks and global financial institutions were encouraged to choose Bahrain as their base in the region.
Isa bin Salman's reign also witnessed the inauguration of many factories and industries which boosted domestic economic growth and reduced local unemployment including:
1) Aluminium Bahrain (Alba) in 1971
2) Bahrain Flour Mills Company in 1972
3) Bahrain National Oil Company (BANOCO) in 1976
4) Eastern Asphalt and Mixed Concrete Company (EAMCO) in 1976
5) Arab Shipbuilding & Repair Yard (ASRY) in 1977
6) Bahrain National Gas Company (BANAGAS) in 1979
7) Iron Purification Factory (an affiliate of the Arab Company for Iron and Steel) in 1984
8) Gulf Aluminium Rolling Mill Company (GARMCO) in 1986