Reports of establishing a single Gulf Cooperation Council (“GCC”) visa for visitors, currently circulating in the media, probably tops the list of good news this year for all of us in the gulf. This is a major step for gulf countries towards stronger ties and further collaboration.
Imagine the state of the Arabian Gulf a century from now if things remain the same, when the world had moved-on towards alternative sources of energy and oil prices decreased by more than 50%. As a result, the biggest proportion of our income slashed in half which means less cash in our banks and sovereign wealth funds. Real estate prices will reach record-breaking lows which were beyond any forecast; due to over-supply in the market caused by mass migration of the expatriate workforce we strongly depend on. The reduction in market size will contribute to the lack of interest in the region from international businesses. The worst part is the changes in the global political arena and the effects it could have on the gulf. Perhaps our security and well-being will no longer be guaranteed by the dominating world power at that time.
The next step for us in the GCC could be to move towards a semi-federation or more specifically a confederation. Essentially, a confederation is the establishment of treaties between different states in regards to specific areas of governance. Treaty members will dismantle all local operations of the government department which has been agreed upon; and a single institution will be created to manage all of its affairs. As a start, it is highly recommended for gulf countries to consider merging all their defence forces. The combination of all resources from the 6 GCC countries will form a single defence mechanism with operations in each country. Security concerns in the region are gradually increasing each year and taking a proactive approach on this matter is a fundamental rick mitigation point. The current GCC sponsored Peninsula Shield Force is an excellent initiative by the council; however, a stronger organization with vast resources could prove more effective.
Subsequently and probably the detrimental factor of life in the region is the water scarcity issue. The GCC may consider establishing a single entity which is funded by each country to oversee all water desalination and technology innovation in the gulf. Current water consumption per capita in some gulf countries is 92% higher than the global average; as such, the new entity will also focus on awareness and setting policy. The increasing consumption and lack of natural water resources in the gulf is a major concern. The masses may easily overlook this issue and deem it unthreatening due to the subsidized water rates as well as lack of awareness.
The next area was a dream almost achieved, the Khaleeji (literally means the “Gulfie”). A single GCC currency which could have equalized purchasing power and establish the back-bone of a 42 million people gulf economy. Unfortunately the project was put on hiatus without any current news on the matter. The Khaleeji could have opened many doors for us, primarily ease of trade. To ensure further efficiency of trading, the Khaleeji could have been the push we needed to break down all borders between us. In simple terms, everything in a 21 century economy is somehow interrelated with the currency. As such, we are highly anticipating the day when the issue is back in the agendas of GCC meetings.
The dynamics of the United Arab Emirates could be the best example of what the gulf may look like centuries from now if everything progresses ideally. Several states which are run independently under the umbrella of a strong and influential federal government. The above areas are only the potential beginning of a much longer and complex process. We urgently need to push our differences aside and start working together for the future of our children. Concessions must be made and we all need to take a diplomatic view when discussing these issues.
Mohammad Sultan Janahi is a social affairs commentator from Dubai, UAE.
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