Arab Press: Time For Gulf To Prepare For Post-Oil Era

Oil derricks are silhouetted against the rising sun at an oilfield in the Baku October 16, 2005. Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi said on Sunday that the rise in oil prices to a record high had been determined by market forces. REUTERS/DAVID MDZINARISHVILI

TEL AVIV – For far too long, Gulf countries have relied solely on petrodollars and now they must find other sources of income in a post-oil world in order to save themselves from economic ruin.

This is the message columnists in prominent Gulf newspapers are conveying during a time when global oil prices are continuing to drop.

In an article in the Bahraini daily Al-Wasat translated by MEMRI, columnist Yousef Maki argues that the reason for his country’s financial crisis is its flawed economic policy in which petrodollars are the only source of income. According to Maki, it is an old policy based on the belief “that oil and its profits would last forever, and that it could overcome any economic, social, or political upheaval.”

In addition, for the past four decades the country failed to leverage the oil profits to develop and diversify its economy.

An example is the marine resource, which is crucial, but it is sadly neglected and lacks economic weight compared to [other] national income sources. Additionally, the agricultural sector was ruined and other economic sectors were not developed, and were therefore weakened, due to our reliance on oil as the main source [of income] in social and economic development and in our GDP.

Maki warns that the only way for Bahrain to emerge from the “stifling” crisis is to adopt a new policy for complementary sources of income that will enable a robust economy.

The policy, Maki asserts, must be based on “three-pronged development – economic, political, and social – and rely on the principle of transparency in managing public economic matters.”

All political decisions, such as public expenditure and investments, must be undertaken in partnership with the citizens themselves.

Meanwhile, Saudi columnist Khaled Al-Suleiman writes in the daily Okaz about efforts by the kingdom to diversify sources of income in preparation for the post-oil era. He refers to the “Turning Point” initiative, a five-year development plan formulated in 2015 by the country’s Council of Economic and Development Affairs, and its plans to create a new sovereign fund to manage part of its oil wealth and diversify its investments.

For Suleiman, however, human resources is the primary ingredient for a successful economic overhaul.

The post-oil era is not only about money, since man is the true resource, and his enrichment with knowledge and professional training is the only guarantee for success in dealing with future challenges and in meeting changing demands. Talented people are the most important foundation for creating a productive environment that eliminates poor management, cleans up corruption, and founds a social culture that is rooted in respect for rules and regulations and in an understanding of duties and rights.

The world is rapidly changing, and only those who change can adapt to its upheavals.