The Gulf crisis, which resulted in the boycott by three GCC countries as well as Egypt of Qatar, will soon complete two years and with no solution in sight. However, it is going to be resolved at some point as evidenced by the global economic policies adopted by the boycotting countries, on the one side, and Qatar, on the other.
In almost two years, the four countries have taken major developmental steps, domestically and externally. The UAE, for example, announced the implementation of key projects covering various fields such as renewable energy and transportation.
It also concluded strategic partnerships with India and South Korea, and will be part of a plan to establish a $44 billion (Dh162 billion) petrochemical and refining complex in India through a joint investment with Saudi Arabia. It is the same strategy that now has His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on a state visit to South Korea.
The world is also watching Saudi Arabia’s ongoing reforms as well as mega projects that are kicking into gear, not to mention the general shift in impetus for work and creativity. This is in addition to the recent tour of Asia by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, which resulted in partnerships with Pakistan that yielded projects worth more than $20 billion, including a $10 billion oil refinery.
Projects with India worth $100 billion were also approved during the Crown Prince’s visit to India, plus 35 cooperation agreements worth $28 billion with China and aid in the creation of millions of jobs.
In Bahrain, efforts have been stepped up to develop energy sources. This year, the production of newly discovered shale gasfields is to begin, which will constitute a qualitative leap for the economy. Egypt has begun to generate sizeable revenues from gas investments, and completed several projects for its new administrative capital despite suffering from periodic terrorist attacks aimed at undermining security and stability.
In contrast, Qatar has spent hundreds of billions on incitements and distortion campaigns and signed arms deals worth $75 billion, which are not compatible with its national and human resource capabilities in operating and managing such military equipment.
In addition, Qatar’s misleading campaigns — through Al-Jazeera TV — have been counterproductive, as evidenced by the official and popular welcome accorded to UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahraini and Egyptian leaders during their external tours, and the breaking of welcome protocols just to express the huge respect to the leaders.
This means the amounts spent on public relations campaigns by Qatar to discredit the boycotting countries could have been better harnessed to develop the Qatari economy. Instead these funds just went down the drain instead of being put to use for institutions and individuals to achieve concrete gains for the economy.
It is true that Qatar has helped some countries that stood by it during this crisis. Qatar provided $15 billion to support the Turkish lira and maintain Turkey’s military presence in Doha and enhanced trade exchanges with Iran. Its large arms purchases too have come at the expense of development projects,
It has to be noted that such cooperation is temporary, unlike the strategic approach being pursued by the boycotting countries in their cooperation with the big emerging economies such as China and India.
It is clear the Gulf crisis is moving in two contradictory directions. The right one is being pursued by the four countries — Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain and Egypt — and entails a long-term approach aimed at sustainable development for a post-oil era.
They are not paying attention to Qatar’s instigation campaigns and even forgetting that there is a crisis on with Qatar. Meanwhile, Qatari money is spent on incitements, funding foreign organisations and arms purchases to win the satisfaction of influential regional parties, but ending up wasting invaluable development opportunities and incurring losses for the economy.
Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.