Courtesy: Gulf Centre for Development Studies

Dubai: The per capita military spending of Gulf Cooperation Council states is the highest in the world, exceeding the combined military spending of Israel and the United Kingdom despite the presence of more than 50,000 foreign troops on Gulf soil.

At the same time, the region witnesses a steady increase in public and foreign debt, amounting to 40 per cent of the GDP in some cases, and foreign debt amounting to $745,000 (Dh2.73 million) per citizen.

These findings were published in a report issued by the Kuwait-based Gulf Centre for Development Policies (GCDP) entitled Gulf 2013: The Constant and the Changing.

The number of American troops in the region equals that in Germany and exceeds the number of American troops in Japan, which the report considers a consequence of “the chronic security imbalances in the region”

Dr Omar Shehabi, director of the GCDP, said that the report “points out that the Gulf states are unable to secure themselves from any external military threat, as they rely on Western countries to provide military protection and security”.

He says that the current model of reliance on the West for protection has a historical legacy, starting from British colonisation of the region in the early nineteenth century, when Gulf countries relied on the West for protection, international diplomacy as well as mediation of conflicts with each other.

“After the discovery of oil, the second world war, and ultimately independence in 1971, American influence steadily overtook the British in the region, starting with setting up the Fifth naval fleet in Bahrain. The Iraqi invasion of Kuwait was a watershed moment, too, as it lay bare the inability of the GCC states to [protect themselves] and consequently brought western troops to countries that have historically exhibited relative independence from Western hegemony, particularly Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

Al Shehabi argued that collective security is the only way for Gulf states to provide adequate military security for themselves. “Otherwise the small size and population of the GCC states will always keep them vulnerable, and [require them] to align themselves with larger powers in the region or the world”.

“The puzzling question that needs more in-depth research however, is why has the Gulf failed to build up adequate military self-[sufficiency], given the huge amount of money that is being spent annually in military expenditure,” he said. “This needs more research and honest self-reflection.”

The GCDP says the report, which 20 researchers from Gulf states participated in preparing, is issued “in light of the growing demands for change in Gulf countries”.

The report also monitors the developments in GCC countries over the past two years, and evaluates from the perspective of the requirements of building a modern state, through analysis of lingering shortcomings in the region such as those of population, the economy, politics and security.

Dr Shehabi said “that the security shortcomings in the GCC, coincide with shortcomings that are no less important, which is the imbalance of population that is reflected in the increasing reliance on expatriates. The proportion of expatriates reached 48 per cent of the total population of GCC states in 2011, and the percentage of citizens in the GCC labour force has shrunk to 31 per cent as citizens have been reduced to a minority that does not exceed 15 per cent in some countries”.