Some of the Gulf economies have been quick to benefit from the implementation of the common market, which commenced in 2008 after its formal adoption at the GCC Summit in Doha in 2007.
are faster than other member states with regards to benefiting from implementation of the Gulf Common Market (GCM) project. Strong statistics released in conjunction with convening of the 36th GCC summit held in Riyadh support this assertion.
Among other things, the common market placed emphasis on numerous fundamental principles, namely an unrestricted access for:
* Economic, investment and service activities;
* Real estate ownership;
* Trading in stocks and establishment of companies; and
* Educational, health and social services.
The GCC General Secretariat rightly contends that the project’s maximised economies of scale, strengthened the negotiating position of GCC countries and the standing of the group within influential global economic blocs.
The UAE, Bahrain and Kuwait stand out among GCC countries in embracing the common market in terms of property ownership, enticing regional visits and opening of bank branches. The UAE has the dominant share of regional property ownership, by accounting for some 75 per cent — or 17,641 units out of 23,509 units — purchased by Gulf nationals in across the Gulf countries in 2014.
Oman and Bahrain came in second and third places with 13 per cent and 9 per cent, respectively. The Sultanate entices GCC citizens on the strength of its scenery and tourism potentials.
Bahrain manages to bring in investors from Saudi Arabia thanks in part to the King Fahd causeway linking the two.
Bahrain attracted some 6.6 million — or 35 per cent — of 19 million GCC citizens moving between member countries in 2014. The majority of these were Saudi nationals travelling to Bahrain over the weekends to enjoy the country’s liberal environment. A good number of Saudis who make frequent trips to Bahrain opt to own or rent property in areas adjacent to the causeway.
A large number of Saudi nationals appreciate travelling via Bahrain International Airport (BIA) partly reflecting the distance to Dammam Airport. Saudi car plates fill parking lots at BIA. Against this backdrop, airport officials in Bahrain plan to develop purpose-built buildings to meet demand.
Plans are underway to ease custom formalities on the causeway by adoption of a single stamp for either direction. Currently, Saudi nationals need exit and entry stamps to reach Bahrain. This intended convenience is needed to avoid lengthy delays for users of the bridge and leading to the pile up of vehicles.
For its part, Kuwait has the highest number of branches of regional commercial banks. This partly reflects the qualities of its financial markets, including the willingness of its investors to deploy investments in regional schemes. Kuwaitis are noted for being primary investors for investment banks and other financial institutions operating in the GCC.
It is a contention that GCC banks are slow in opening branches in other member states. In September, Qatar Central Bank announced the provision of licenses to banks from other GCC countries to open branches.
Undoubtedly, the common market offers broad areas for promoting economic integration for the benefit of nationals and businesses in the grouping.
Integration is vital for success of any regional economic venture.
The writer is a Member of Parliament in Bahrain.