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Life after oil

Life after oil

Gulf countries are struggling with how to gird their economies for the day when their fossil fuels run out.

January 27, 2010 10:41 by

“They are demanding more qualified nationals in the workforce as firms in the region compete globally. It’s a lot of pressure on the upcoming generation, otherwise it’s going to be tough luck for people who are not qualified,” he said.

Parallel Developments

Just as the competition for jobs is increasing, GCC members appear to be competing with one another to develop certain sectors. The most common industries locally are those that are part of the oil supply chain, or energy intensive manufacturing industries that are able to capitalize on the relatively low price of petrochemicals in the region.

As they diversify, many countries appear to be developing along parallel lines. Qatar, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai each has its own airline. Each has tried to attract tourists with film festivals and districts dedicated to art and museums. And each has been trying to build the local higher education scene by attracting big name foreign universities to establish centers in their respective cities.

The Gulf Research Council’s Woertz said that it will be difficult for all the GCC countries if they continue to diversify in similar ways. Dubai – which is not a hydrocarbon-rich economy but has been aggressively moving into new sectors for years – is long established as a center for trade. “Certainly not every country can become a trading hub,” Woertz said.

“Dubai has already done well, Bahrain has been a banking center even before Dubai, and Oman has its container port in Salalah, but I have my doubts Qatar or Kuwait could excel in the same niches, for example.”

Standard Chartered’s Shaher said that even if several regional players invest in similar sectors, they will each eventually develop their own niches. “I think the key in the future will be the diversification. Even if you look at financial services, Bahrain will always be strong in terms of Islamic finance and asset management,” he said.

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