Gulf Economic Barometer

The Gulf Economic Barometer monitors initiatives taken by Gulf states as they seek fiscal, monetary, and labor policy changes to meet the challenge of reduced state revenue from natural resources. The key trend is a major shift in the way the GCC countries have been spending on public sector wages, infrastructure, and social services over the last decade. The GEB documents the policy changes as they are announced and/or implemented by country and by sector and is updated regularly as data becomes available. The information here is neither official nor exhaustive.

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Market Watch: The Political Perils of Economic Liberalization in the Gulf

by Karen E. Young Economic liberalization tends to bring with it social, if not always political, openings. By definition, liberalization challenges existing orders; more specifically, liberalization tries to deny the state a dominating role in the economy. State-led capitalism, as practiced in the Gulf states over the last 40 years, has invited foreign investment and migrant human capital, but it has always privileged the state and protected opportunity for citizens, most visibly via commercial agency laws and the kafala system.

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Issue Paper: Private Financing, Ownership, and Management of Gulf Infrastructure

Prince Mohammad Bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Medina, Saudi Arabia.

by Justin Alexander
In response to fiscal pressures and concerns about the efficiency of project and service implementation, Gulf Arab states are increasingly looking to the private sector to finance and manage infrastructure projects.  

Market Watch: Self-Imposed Barriers to Economic Integration in the GCC

by Karen E. Young Qatar has lodged a complaint with the World Trade Organization against the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain for blocking its air traffic and increasing the costs of basic food and medicine imports. Though intra-Gulf state economic relations continue to suffer as a result of the current crisis, there are long-standing barriers to trade and investment flows that deserve consideration.  

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Market Watch: Turkey’s Economic Stake in the GCC Dispute

by Karen E. Young On the heels of the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced plans to visit Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. As the Gulf Cooperation Council diplomatic crisis continues, Erdogan’s presence likely will do little to calm regional tensions.

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Issue Paper: Prioritizing Renewable Energy in a Time of Fiscal Austerity

Surging population growth, large-scale infrastructure investment, and economic development progress have led to increased energy demand in the Gulf Cooperation Council states. Since late 2014, the new normal of low oil prices has necessitated fiscal constraints and at the same time prompted greater interest in renewable energy sources.

Market Watch: Qatar Crisis Heightens Obstacles to the Economic Reform Agenda

by Karen E. Young While there are professed visions of change away from state-led growth, in which new private sector dynamism and the expansion of Gulf equity markets would employ citizens and wean states from oil and gas revenue, the realities of politics on the ground in the last two weeks demonstrate there are more powerful forces at play.

Market Watch: GCC Crisis: Implications

by Karen E. Young As tensions across the Gulf Arab states escalate, measures taken against Qatar are impacting trade, business, and food security. Here are some implications of the ongoing diplomatic fallout with Qatar.

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Market Watch: Isolating Qatar Reveals Economic Vulnerabilities of the GCC

by Karen E. Young The Saudi, Bahraini, and Emirati efforts to isolate Qatar diplomatically and logistically from its Gulf Cooperation Council partners highlights structural weaknesses in many of the Gulf states, not just Qatar.

Issue Paper: War at Any Price: Domestic and Regional Economic Consequences of Yemen’s Civil War

by Karen E. Young The civil war in Yemen is now approaching its fourth year, and the rising cost of the conflict in its humanitarian disaster and continued investments by the warring parties in military expenditures suggest that cost is not a deterrent or impediment to war. While the immediate costs to the Yemeni people have been clear, the future cost to Gulf neighbors, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in particular, may be more than these states have estimated.

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Market Watch: The Lure of Technology in the Gulf

by Karen E. Young Gulf states are turning to technology as a placement for outward investment and as a source of generating jobs and economic growth in domestic markets.

Issue Paper: Women’s Labor Force Participation Across the GCC

The current challenge for the oil and gas exporting states of the Gulf Cooperation Council rests in diversification of their economies, and perhaps more importantly, in the activation of a more productive and efficient workforce.

Issue Paper: Water at the Nexus of Gulf Security and Growth Challenges

by Mai Mahmoud Gulf Arab states face some of the most severe water shortages in the world. The situation emerges from limited availability of renewable water resources and escalating demands that result from the quick pace of economic development, rapid population growth, changing consumption patterns, and management inefficiencies.  

Issue Paper: Economic Diversification Plans: Challenges and Prospects for Gulf Policymakers

by Kristian Coates Ulrichsen By focusing on the practical and political challenges of technocratic and economic reforms, using specific examples to illustrate broader thematic points, this paper analyzes what the current generation of officials need to do differently to secure more favorable and sustainable results.  

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Issue Paper: Gulf Islamic Finance in a Time of Austerity

by Mai Mahmoud
Islamic finance has grown in importance in most of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries since 2013. Islamic banks now represent more than 25 percent of the banking system in the GCC, and the region’s sukuk (sharia-compliant financial securities) market is the second largest in the world after Malaysia.

Market Watch: Business Politics in the Gulf

A brief look at state-business relations in the Gulf Cooperation Council states.

Market Watch: Declining Gulf States’ Financial Support Adds to Egypt’s Currency Woes

The Egyptian economy is put under further pressure as aid becomes less of a priority for GCC states.

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Market Watch: The Perfect Storm: Labor Markets and Economic Downturn in the Gulf

Amid fiscal deficits, bloated public sectors, and accelerated efforts to create jobs and diversify economies, there is a perfect storm on the horizon for GCC states.

Market Watch: GCC Bank Sector Under Pressure

The commercial banking sector in the GCC comes under pressure as oil prices continue to decline.

Issue Paper: The Economics of Migrant Workers in the GCC

by Omar Al-Ubaydli The presence of large migrant communities has made the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries a lightning rod for an immigration debate.