AGSIW experts explain the regional trends they’ll be following most closely as the year unfolds.
Senior Resident Scholar
Robert Mogielnicki is a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington. He leads the Next Gen Gulf series examining technology trends in Gulf Arab states. A specialist in the political economy of the Middle East and North Africa, the Middle East Policy Council listed Mogielnicki in their 40 Under 40 awards for influential Middle East experts.
Mogielnicki teaches a graduate-level seminar on China-Middle East and North Africa Relations as an adjunct assistant professor at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service. He is also a regional and methodology advisor with Freedom House for a yearlong research project on Beijing’s global media and technology influence. Mogielnicki authors the Middle East and North Africa section of the quarterly “Global Mobility Report” published by Henley & Partners, a global citizenship and residence advisory firm, and he is a member of the firm’s board of advisors. Mogielnicki previously served as a human resource development consultant for an Oxford-based research consultancy that operated across the Gulf region. Prior to his consulting career, he worked in journalism, covering political and economic developments in post-revolutionary Egypt and Tunisia.
His book, A Political Economy of Free Zones in Gulf Arab States, was published by Palgrave Macmillan’s international political economy series in April 2021. Mogielnicki has authored several book chapters on the politics and economics of Gulf Arab states. His work and commentary on the region have appeared in Foreign Policy, Bloomberg, Axios, Forbes, Reuters, Nature, Financial Times, The Banker, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Vox, Los Angeles Times, S&P Global, and Nikkei Asia, among other prominent outlets.
Mogielnicki received his DPhil from the University of Oxford’s Magdalen College, where he conducted research in conjunction with the Oriental Institute and Middle East Centre. Drawing on extensive fieldwork in the United Arab Emirates, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain, and Kuwait, his dissertation examines the political economy of free zones in Gulf Arab countries. He earned his MPhil in modern Middle Eastern studies from St Antony’s College, University of Oxford, and completed a master’s thesis on labor policy formulation and implementation in the emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. He received his BA from Georgetown University as a double major in Arabic and government, graduating magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa.
Mogielnicki specializes in the intersection of politics and economics across Gulf Arab states. He is particularly interested in how these geostrategic states engage in processes of economic transformation through trade and investment policies, labor market interventions, economic diversification, and technological innovation.
Mogielnicki speaks Modern Standard Arabic and the Egyptian dialect, and he possesses a working knowledge of the Tunisian dialect. He is a former recipient of the Sultan Qaboos Arabic Language Scholarship (2007-11) and served as a Critical Language Scholar in Tunisia in 2011. Mogielnicki has lived in the UAE, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Turkey, and Jerusalem.
Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund continues to enjoy steady growth aided by technology-focused investments, but the sovereign wealth fund’s 2030 growth target remains distant.
There is still time for Saudi Arabia to accomplish many of Vision 2030’s foreign investment objectives, but the window of opportunity is closing quickly.
The underlying economic factors driving debt issuances, issues related to how raised funds are redeployed within local economies, and the implications of looming debt maturities help to paint a comprehensive picture of the state of Gulf Arab economies.
The UAE’s push to reinvigorate its economy, in this manner and at this time, is linked to Expo 2020 Dubai, regional competition, and a broader realignment of Emirati foreign policy to better serve economic interests.
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are pushing to advance their economic interests, but it does not necessarily have to be a zero-sum game.
Free zones are poised to remain central elements of the post-coronavirus economic recoveries in Gulf Arab states despite shocks impacting the broader business-oriented sector and ongoing commercial reforms.
Robert Mogielnicki discusses the centralization of economic policymaking and the consolidation of power amid the fast pace of new initiatives in the kingdom since the launch of Vision 2030.
The pace and scope of economic development initiatives and policies announced during the first five years of Saudi Vision 2030 have been dizzying, but any eventual progress is likely to be either broad and incremental or narrow and deep.
If Omanis aren’t ready to shoulder a 5% VAT, then they have a long, bumpy economic road ahead of them.