The oil and gas sector in the GCC is expected to receive investments to the tune of $237 billion in the next 10 years, which will be 25 per cent of the total global tally expected in this industry.

The oil and gas sector has been the most lucrative field for foreign investment in the region, said a UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad) report on Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) FDI flows.

In 10 years, an investment of $950 billion is expected in this sector worldwide.

The report stated the total FDI flow into UAE during 2000 was $100 million, down by almost 75 per cent from 1995's $399 million.

Further, all ESCWA member countries together could attract less than 7 per cent of total FDI headed towards Asia in 2000.

According to the report, total FDI flow to Asia in 2000 reached a record $141 billion. Saudi Arabia alone was responsible for almost 60 per cent of the FDI flow to the ESCWA countries.

The FDI flow into UAE fell to $301 million in 1996, $232 million in 1997 and $253 million in 1998 and eventually settled at $100 million in 2000. However, Oman's FDI rose from $21 million in 1999 to $62 million in 2000.

In 1998, Oman attracted FDI inflows of $101 million compared with $65 million in 1997. The sultanate recorded the highest FDI inflow of $119 million between 1989-1994.

"Over the past five years, Asia witnessed a steep increase in FDI flow - from a modest $74 billion in 1995 to $141 billion in 2000 - 20 per cent growth on a year-to-year basis. More importantly, 30 per cent of total FDI flow to Asia in 2000 was to China alone," says Ahmed Samerai, investment development manager of UAE-based Damac Investment Co.

The report says that countries like Saudi Arabia have already opened the door for foreign companies to invest in the gas, power generation and petrochemical industries.

Samerai finds that in 1998, FDI inflows into the region touched a record $6.5 billion against $5.4 billion in 1997. In 1996, the figure was $2.8 billion as against the annual average of $2.18 billion between 1989-94.

Among the Gulf countries, Saudi Arabia received the major share of FDI inflow touching the $1 billion mark in 2000 as against $782 million in 1999. The kingdom attracted a record $4.2 billion in FDI in 1998 and $3 billion in 1997.

The countries in the Gulf which saw increased FDI included Bahrain and Oman. Bahrain also recorded increase in FDI inflows of $500 million in 2000 compared to $448 million in 1999. In 1996, Bahrain recorded a record $2 billion as against $431 million in 1995.

Qatar attracted $303 million in foreign investment in 2000 compared to $144 million in 1999. The country has been getting heavy FDI inflows in the past few years with the figure for 1998 being $347 million, reaching a high of $418 million in 1997 and $339 million in 1996.

In the case of Kuwait, FDI fell to $16 million in 2000 compared to $72 million in 1999. In 1996, the country recorded a record $347 million in foreign investment.

Jordan posted FDI inflow of $300 million versus $158 million in 1999 and $310 million in 1998.

Saudi Arabia's FDI outflows touched $134 million compared to $125 million in 1999. In UAE's case it was $61 million, according to Unctad's World Investment Report 2001.