It is tempting to view Bahrain as the back office to Dubai's flashy banking front office in the Middle East.
While most of the regional heads of the world's largest banks base themselves in the Dubai International Financial Centre, the accounts staff toil away in parts of Manama, where the cost of living is cheaper.
It is a comparison Kamal Ahmed, the chief operating officer at the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB), revels in rather than rejects.
"Where are the most jobs?" Mr Ahmed says. "There are more than 400 financial institutions in the country and all of these are creating work for Bahrainis."
The EDB was set up as an "agent of change" to help encourage foreign investors to come to the country.
"We need quality, export-oriented jobs," says Mr Ahmed. "But we are picky. For example, we turned away a rubber factory that wanted to create 1,000 jobs because it would use a lot of energy and they were low-quality jobs. In Bahrain, we cannot afford to make mistakes."
Instead, the organisation is pressing the case for Bahrain as a financial services centre, including sectors such as insurance, accounting and the legal profession.
"Insurance is growing at a fabulous pace," Mr Ahmed says. "Let's not forget we are on the doorstep of Saudi Arabia, which is the biggest market in the Gulf."
Bahrain has a reputation as the most liberal economy in the Middle East. It was one of the first countries in the Gulf to present its Vision 2030, a master plan similar to the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030.
It is committed to doubling, in real terms, the household income of every Bahraini, diversifying the economy and reducing its dependence on hydrocarbons in 20 years.
It is not the "flashiest, brashest or wealthiest" country in the Gulf, in the words of one banker, but it has often been at the forefront of change.
It was the first country in the region to exploit its oil reserves and is now looking at ways to move beyond them. It is also beginning to embrace political change.
Yesterday marked the 10th anniversary of the National Action Charter, which paved the way for a new constitution, eventually changing the country from an emirate to a constitutional monarchy with a parliamentary system.
The anniversary was also greeted by a smattering of protests, particularly from the Shia community, which is demanding a bigger stake in the country's economic fortunes and greater political freedom. Such protests are regarded with tolerance by the business community, although they may have been surprised by the level of violence.
"Protest is legal," says Mr Ahmed. "People can go and protest but things are different here than in Tunisia or Egypt."
His view echoes the remarks of the Bahraini Crown Prince, Sheikh Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. Speaking in Ankara last week, Sheikh Salman said Arab leaders should make popular demands for political freedoms a "priority", but he doubted unrest in Tunisia and Egypt would spill over to other Arab countries.
"What people … want primarily is respect, free life, participation in decision making and justice. And responding to those demands should be a priority for us, Arab leaders or other leaders," he said.
King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa ordered an increase in food subsidies and social welfare payments at the beginning of this month.
The government will increase subsidies on basic food items including flour and meat to 65.9 million dinars (Dh641.9m) in this year's budget, and to 67m dinars in the next fiscal year, the official Bahrain News Agency reported. The king also ordered that social assistance be increased to 20m dinars.
"At some point we shall think about introducing tax," said Mr Ahmed. "But first we shall have to reduce the subsidies."
Keeping the economy growing is key to the country's success and stability. Bahrain generally enjoyed a pretty good financial crisis, barring the odd shock such as the Maan al Sanea and Al Gosaibi scandal. A report prepared by Kroll is with the public prosecutor's office, which will make a decision on whether and who to prosecute.
"The financial crisis affected us all," says Dr Jasim Husain Ali, a member of the Council of Representatives. "The property market has also not recovered … we don't want Egyptian-style change but we would like the authorities to listen to people's demands."
One thing people are hoping will make a difference is the proposed bridge between Bahrain and Qatar. This has been on the drawing board for a number of years but Qatar's successful Fifa World Cup 2022 bid is expected to reignite the project.
"I am confident it will be built in time for the World Cup," says Mr Ahmed. "It will help socially and economically. There is a committee assessing all the designs, which will now have rail as well as car links."
The Qatar Bahrain Causeway will be about 40km long when completed, making it the longest bridge in the world, at a cost of up to US$3 billion (Dh11.01bn). Large infrastructural projects are notorious for delays - and corruption - something Sheikh Salman has been trying to stamp out in the country.
"There is more transparency now," says Wael Mattar, the acting chief executive of Abu Dhabi Investment House, which has offices in Manama. "But there is still some way to go for the economy."
Mr Mattar would like to see more creative lending from the banks, and "not just personal loans or car loans". Economists and technocrats like to point to Singapore as a model for the country, but he thinks that is somewhat fanciful.
One issue dividing the business community is the recently introduced labour reform. A scheme has been introduced that makes private companies pay 10 Bahraini dinars a month for every foreign worker they employ. This money is then diverted to a fund, which trains local workers.
"Twenty thousand Bahrainis have been trained in the past two years," says Mr Ahmed. "At first, the business community did not like it but they are coming around. We have growth of 4 per cent last year and unemployment of just 3.8 per cent. Our greatest asset is our people."