The Future Gulf

Economic Challenges and Opportunities in the post oil era

Envisioning the Gulf's future

Orient Planet Group's Managing Director, Nidal Abou Zaki, has published his first book written in Arabic titled "The Future Gulf - Economic Challenges and Opportunities in the post oil era" , narrating from a first-person perspective the region's rise as a global economic player from being heavily-oil dependent in the 1990s to the present rapidly diversifying economy. Nidal started his career in Lebanon as a journalist and later moved into public relations working as a media advisor and trainer, while living and working in the UAE for more than 25 years. He has penned a number of articles and columns in Arab and foreign newspapers and magazines.

As founder of Orient Planet Group, he has worked closely with some of the major projects of the region's governments as well as with regional companies riding through the tides of change sweeping the region. His work has given him huge opportunities to observe and study the major developments and socioeconomic complexities within the region. Apart from the UAE, he has frequented the five other countries forming the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC): Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman, Bahrain and Kuwait.

In this book, Abou Zaki recounts the GCC's socioeconomic development from the time of the oil boom and the various growth phases in its development to the present economic achievements. As the GCC undergoes a critical transition following regional and global economic instability coupled with oil price fluctuations, he further looks into the region's proactive efforts to transform its economic model dependent on oil to one that is diversified through a comprehensive economic and social restructuring, characterized by a drive to become flexible and highly adaptable to global changes.

The author envisions what the future Gulf will be like based on its responses to the economic conditions and present challenges. He has seen the strong potential of the region based on the path taken by its leaders to provide a level playing field for the expansion of the private sector in the region. Many of the GCC countries have reaped the fruits of this model, creating more jobs, generating additional business activities, driving innovation, and promoting a knowledge-based economy. He suggests that focusing on technology and innovation as well as the entrepreneurial sector offers the region a strong foundation for the future.

The first chapter of the book reviews the historical development in the GCC from the time its leaders were exploring for oil to its discovery in the 1970s. The establishment of most of the GCC countries as modern nation-state was founded on this rich resource at a time when the world population was rapidly growing and economic activities were expanding globally, paving the way for higher demand for energy resources. In essence, oil was the main source of wealth for GCC countries to pursue economic development.

The second chapter explains the challenges facing the region after the steep oil price decline in 2014 and how the crisis had impacted the GCC economy. The chapter presents the various initiatives and programs by the governments to address the issue, widely reflected in fiscal programs and restructuring and diversification of economic activities, including the expansion of renewable energy projects as a necessary action to prepare for a post-oil era.

The third chapter attempts a comparative approach of the transition from an oil-based to a knowledge-based economy, highlighting a number of models undertaken by other advanced societies such as the State of Houston in the United States, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. It also discusses the growth path of other non-oil producing countries such as Japan, Germany, Singapore, and South Korea.

The fourth chapter analyzes the GCC's post-oil preparations as outlined by the various economic visions cited in Saudi Vision 2030, UAE Vision 2021, Qatar Vision 2030, Oman Future Economic Vision 2 20; Kuwait Vision 2035 while Bahrain also published their various non-oil economic targets.

The fifth chapter then examines in detail the various routes to the post-oil economy such as building the knowledge-based economy, diversification policies, expansion of the private sector's role, investments in human capital, strengthening cooperation with economic superpowers, and sustainable development in the GCC.

The sixth and final chapter explores the tangible strategies that could help the GCC to move forward to a post-oil era by boosting its industrial, agricultural and investment capabilities as part of a more comprehensive and inclusive development plan. The book is optimistic on the important role of knowledge, technology and innovation in the GCC's move forward to the new economy.