After decades of being dominated by North America and Western Europe, the world economy is entering an interesting stage where it’s increasingly driven by new, emerging powers. India, Brazil and Nigeria are among the nations coming to the fore, but it’s in the Middle East that some of the most intriguing developments are taking place. With its youthful population, low energy prices and low infrastructure costs, it’s proving very attractive to international investors, and steady localised growth, though not evenly distributed, may give it the stability it needs to make lasting progress.
Oman’s economy has grown unsteadily but consistently over the past three decades; it now brings in three times what it did 15 years ago. With excellent infrastructure and strong institutions, it’s a successful oil exporter with extensive reserves of natural gas, and it’s currently looking into the commercial viability of its reserves of limestone and marble. As it aims to diversify its economy and, in particular, to develop its light industry, it’s attracting a lot of interest from international investors.
With a generally healthy, stable economy, Kuwait has enjoyed a good deal of prosperity in recent decades despite the setback caused by the Iraqi invasion in 1990. Much of this success has been driven by individuals with a breadth of cross-sector knowledge. For example, Fahad Al-Rajaan resigns recently from his role as chair of the Ahli United Bank in Bahrain and has been able to devote more time to other interests. As well as developing enterprising links with other economies, he’s also played a key role at the Public Institution for Social Security as well as the Kuwait Real Estate Investment Consortium, which has contributed to the escalating value of homes in the country and helped to attract top talent to its industries.
With one of the highest standards of education in the region and a large population of skilled young people eager for opportunity, Jordan is an appealing prospect. It has become increasingly self-sufficient and has significantly reduced its national deficit, and it has now begun to look again at opportunities abroad, including projects that involve integrated working with other Middle Eastern nations to contribute to the overall economic success of the region.
Although some countries in the region are still struggling and there is obviously concern about the situations in Syria and Iraq, overall the economic picture is looking up. Increasingly good road infrastructure linking the Gulf states is improving business opportunities and is also helping to ensure positive cultural exchange, with major new arts events in the region also contributing. This is increasingly leading to people talking about the Middle East as a potential trading bloc with economic influence greater than the sum of its parts.
Overall, the region is thought unlikely to enjoy the same kind of success that the Asian tiger economies did at the turn of the century, but for this very reason it is likely to be more stable and its gains longer lasting. Steady growth is expected over the next few years. If infrastructure investment and economic diversification continue, the prospects for future development look very bright indeed.