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The GCC countries have benefited enormously
from oil and gas reserves and assets that have
generated significant financial liquidity in the six
years between 2001 and 2007. The present
wealth poses an interesting question for those
interested in the future of the GCC countries, and
one which these scenarios seek to address: How
can this wealth be put to use to ensure that the
GCC countries expand in affluence, while
overcoming the internal and external pressures
that could shift them from the path of sustainable
Key Questions for the Scenarios
From amidst the many drivers identified by
project participants, the scenario process
identified two focal questions that have the
ability to alter the fortunes of the GCC countries
in the next two decades:
Will leaders in the GCC countries bewilling and able to implement the
necessary economic and political reforms
and enforce the rule of law, both in public
and in private governance?
How can the GCC countries maintaininternal order and stability, in particular
vis--vis a complex and uncertain
As important as these questions are, more
crucial are the insights that can be gleaned
from considering what these questions imply.
In positing three possible futures which address
them in different ways, two key themes
consistently emerged as being crucial to the
future of the GCC countries:
Education and innovation: The GCCcountries face the challenge that their
collective oil reserves, while vast, will not last
forever. Nor are oil and gas always a reliable
source of wealth; there have been many
times where GCC budgets were in deficit
and public debt rose as a result of falling
energy prices. However, in attempting to
diversify away from oil, the GCC countries
face a major problem in that their existing
skill base for workers is low by world
standards and relatively little research,
development and innovation are occurring
in the region. This creates an impediment
to development and exacerbates other
problems associated with importing both
foreign workers and technologies. As a
result, the way in which education policies
are handled by GCC governments will be a
significant determinant of the regions ability
to develop as innovation-based economies
that do not wholly rely on natural resources.
Leadership and governance: The GCCcountries are ruled by traditionally-organized
family groups, with varying underlying
executive, legislative and judicial models.
Leadership and governance will therefore be
instrumental in determining the path that the
GCC countries will take over the next 20 years.
Although much is being undertaken today in
terms of reform to improve the efficiency and
openness of these systems, the strategies
chosen and the rates of change vary between
GCC countries. In managing both internal
stability and reforms, leadership plays a
critical role at all levels of GCC government
as well as in the private sector.
Three different paths for the GCC countries
through to 2025 are represented in figure 2.1,
displayed as movements through a matrix
defined by the focal questions above.
Will the GCC countries successfully insulate
themselves from ongoing regional instability in
order to respond to internal pressures, firmly
establishing the rule of law and achieving
effective governance and institutional reforms?
Oasis is a story where a focus on technocratic
governance and top-down institutional reforms
pays off in the form of a well-organized, cohesive
and prosperous regional grouping. The regions
economic growth, however, remains partially
constrained by over-regulation and less-inclusive
Will GCC governments allow regional
tensions to spill over and affect their internal
security, resulting in a focus on short-term
solutions at the expense of tough reforms?
Sandstorm is a scenario in which dramatic
regional events and domestic unrest contribute
to the GCC countries failing to maintain
their momentum of reforms, with negative
consequences for the regions economic and
Will GCC governments succeed in taking
advantage of globalization in a more stable
regional environment through bold reforms at
the institutional and political levels? The Fertile
Gulf is a future where GCC governments invest
heavily in education and innovation in order to
create a healthy private sector while encouraging
reforms through a bottom-up process. This results
in a more socially integrated and economically
diversified region that occupies an increasingly
relevant position in the international scene. 7
Oasis describes a scenario where regional stability
continues to be a challenge for the GCC countries, which
are nevertheless able to achieve substantial institutional
reforms. The GCC countries develop strong identities and
work together to coordinate diplomatic and economic policies
through technocratic governance and a strong internal
market. Over-regulation slows the process of globalization,
impacting the GCC countries; nonetheless, they are an oasis
of stability and prosperity in an otherwise troubled region.
The story is written as a press conference by a member
of the Kuwaiti leadership and a Saudi technocrat delivered
in Kazakhstan in December 2025.
Sandstorm describes a future where regional instability
is a defining factor, affecting the ability of GCC countries to
effectively carry out much-needed institutional reforms.
In a depressed global environment, reforms deflate or collapse
due to a lack of attention to the root cause of internal issues
and a tendency for governments to focus on short-term stability
at the expense of long-term solutions. Caught in a shifting,
violent environment, the GCC countries are blinded, unable to
navigate their way out of the sandstorm and identify
opportunities for prosperity for their populations.
This scenario is written as a transcript of a televised debate
on Arab satellite television, discussing the progress the GCC
countries have made from the vantage point of 2025.
The Fertile Gulf describes the rise of the GCC countries
as innovation hubs in a global environment characterized
by strong demand for energy and increasing globalization.
Regional stability gives the GCC countries the opportunity
to focus on enhancing their human capital at all levels,
investing heavily in education while proceeding carefully
with political and institutional reforms to support their growing
economies and societies. In this way, a fertile garden of
prosperity is established along the Persian Gulf.
Written as a business magazine interview, The Fertile Gulf
is an account of the experiences of a successful young
entrepreneur from the GCC region, who has taken advantage
of the changes between 2007 and 2025 to develop a range
of global enterprises.
The Fertile GulfThe
2007-2012: Growing tensions and insecurity spur a seriesof multilateral conferences involving the leadership of GCCcountries; the problem of regional violence is addressed atpolitical and cultural levels, resulting in increased regional stability.At the same time, recognizing the importance of education andinnovation, a number of GCC governments decide to spend theirbuilt-up wealth on educating their people and jump-startingresearch and development in a radical and dramatic fashion.Encouraging entrepreneurship by creating more business-friendlyregulatory and institutional environments and establishing fundsfor the development of new business ideas, the GCC countrieseffectively begin to emulate the Silicon Valley model.
2013-2020: Less volatile, but still bullish, oil markets dont distractGCC countries from private, non-energy sector development,the success of which reduces national unemployment whilecreating an array of sought-after, highly skilled jobs for thosecoming out of the newly reformed education system. A series ofinternational bilateral agreements to financially support researchprojects in exchange for IP rights results in an innovation explosionin the GCC countries. Incremental improvements in institutions tomanage the burgeoning entrepreneurship combined with a moreinfluential business community further support regional development.
2021-2025: Political reforms, which have proceeded at differentstages across the GCC countries, find balance; Western democraticideals are not directly transplanted. Instead, governmentsgenerate their own models of participatory governance over aperiod of experimentation and increasing engagement with theirpopulations. After a sea change in both attitudes to and theprovision of tertiary education, Arab graduates are keenly soughtafter for position