Gulf Economic Barometer

The Gulf Economic Barometer monitors initiatives taken by Gulf states as they seek fiscal, monetary, and trade policy changes to meet the challenge of reduced state revenue from natural resources. The key trend is a major shift in the way Gulf Arab 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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Oman's state-owned Duqm refinery closes $4.6 billion in financing from domestic and international sources.
Umm Al Quwain, one of the UAE's 7 emirates, issues royal decree increasing government salaries by 100 percent.

7 Visa Rules Changes in the UAE [Infographic]

7 Visa Rule Changes in the UAE The UAE announced several changes to its visa guidelines in a number of categories, including for workers, students, and tourists. The government will allow people escaping or subject to political violence in their home countries to apply for a 1-year visa with the potential for extension, despite not being a signatory of the U.N. refugee convention.

Abu Dhabi Stimulus Plan [Infographic]

Abu Dhabi Stimulus Plan The government of Abu Dhabi announced a $13.6 billion stimulus package aimed at supporting economic development over three years. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan instructed officials to draw up detailed plans for allocating the funds over the next 90 days. Abu Dhabi's economy has stagnated in recent years as a result of lower oil prices, as well as austerity measures taken by the government to curb the rise in deficits. The new stimulus package includes 10 initiatives designed to streamline bureaucratic regulations and facilitate the ease of doing business in the UAE.

Market Watch: Trade Wars and Bond-Offs: Side Effects of Tariffs and Tactical Borrowing Hit the Gulf

Donald Trump
by Karen E. Young There are simultaneous efforts by Qatar and Saudi Arabia to attract investors for new bond issues this week. The “bond-off,” or race to sale, is yet a new example of the use of economic means to achieve political ends.

The Bridge: Competing Megaprojects in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

Kuwait Boubyan Island
by Robert Mogielnicki During the March 25 Kuwait Investment Forum, Kuwaiti government officials reaffirmed the country’s commitment to develop the Silk City (Madinat al-Harir) megaproject and establish an integrated economic zone on five uninhabited Kuwaiti islands.

Market Watch: U.S.-Saudi Economic Ties: Why Saudi Arabia Matters

Donald Trump and Mohammed bin Salman
Saudi Arabia and the United States are linked by investment ties, energy markets, and a shared interest in the stability of the global economy.

Market Watch: Saudi Economic Reform Update: Saudization and Expat Exodus

Oil worker in Khurais by Karen E. Young The experimental nature of Saudization begs many questions of which sectors are targeted and why, and how smaller businesses will be able to assume higher wage costs of hiring nationals.

Market Watch: Payment Delayed: The Economic Risk of Gulf Contracting Practices

Dubai Construction by Karen E. Young Like the Bin Laden Group and Saudi Oger, Carillion has proved that the construction of megaprojects in the Gulf, however lucrative and central to state-led development plans, is full of pitfalls.

The Bridge: ADNOC Accelerates Partnership Initiatives and Expands Investment Opportunities.

The aggressive restructuring of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company is moving at a break neck pace, essentially rewriting its ambitious energy playbook in less than two years.

Market Watch: Saudi Arabia’s Neom — State-Led Growth Meets New Global Capitalism

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman envisions a new kind of Saudi Arabia, or at least the opening of a space complete with yoga studios, beach resorts, and robots in place of migrant laborers. This is the image of Neom, the $500 billion master project to develop an over 10,000 square mile swath of land in the northwest corner of Saudi Arabia on the shores of the Red Sea, adjacent to Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and southern Jordan.  

Market Watch: UAE Fiscal Policy — Shining Light on Federal Resource Sharing

Government bonds are a popular remedy to budget deficits across the Gulf Cooperation Council states right now.
 

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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The Bridge: Qatar Must Adapt SEZs to New Regional Geopolitical Realities

by Robert Mogielnicki
The Saudi, Bahraini, and Emirati efforts to isolate Qatar logistically as part of the most recent Gulf Cooperation Council crisis will require a restructuring of the country’s plans for special economic zones (SEZs) – commonly known as free zones (FZs) in the rest of the GCC states.

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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: Limited Benefits to U.S. Infrastructure in Saudi PIF Investment

by Karen E. Young Trump may have elicited a deal that serves the interests of Saudi Arabia and the fund managers receiving the investment, but not necessarily filling a funding gap in an already deep pool of U.S.-based investor interest.

Market Watch: As Reform Agenda Waffles, Citizens Take Life to the Streets

by Karen E. Young Despite slowdowns in consumer demand and general economic activity, there is evidence of alternative economic behavior and microenterprise that is thriving in the Gulf.

The Bridge: Bahrain Beckons Tourists as It Diversifies Its Economy

Sunset in Manama, Bahrain by Omar Al-Ubaydli In the last few years, the Bahraini government has launched a multipronged strategy to ensure that the kingdom’s page is more frequently read by the world’s travelers. Can it succeed in a region riddled with security threats?

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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.

Market Watch: Economic Nationalism at the Expense of GCC Integration

As a burgeoning global trend, economic nationalism is also surging in the Gulf states. What may be lost is the decade of efforts in economic integration and negotiations to make the GCC work as a common market, with complementary assets.

The Bridge: Restructuring of Saudi Arabia’s Energy Industry Gathers Pace

by Diane Munro Saudi Arabia is powering ahead with ambitious plans to reorganize its massive energy sector. The restructuring is part of its strategic plan to reduce domestic oil dependence and adopt a more commercial approach to its business operations at state oil company Aramco as part of Vision 2030 and ahead of the historic initial public offering set for 2018.