Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) was set up in 1981 between Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Kuwait for strengthening cooperation and economic development in the region. The GCC has made strides towards economic consolidation by forming a customs union and a common market. The long-term vision is to create an Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) with a single currency. Progress towards the EMU has been slow and the recent oil price plunge has led to concerns regarding sustainable growth of member countries due to their significant dependence on oil and lack of diversification. The purpose of this paper is to analyse the scope of an EMU in the GCC against the backdrop of current oil crisis and examine sustainability of such a union. The paper studies convergence criteria similar to the ones followed by the accession countries of the European EMU in the 1990s preceding the introduction of the single currency Euro.
The paper draws its practical approach from the experience of the European Monetary Union, though the original idea of the single currency in Optimum Currency Areas was conceived by Mundell (1961). The present paper analyses macroeconomic time-series variables (e.g. GDP, budget deficits, debt, growth rates, inflation rates, exchange rates) for GCC during the period 2005-2014. Data has been sourced from United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) databases to study the convergence criteria adopted by the EMU countries for the introduction of the Euro.
The paper concludes that GCC economies are similar in terms of their structural and economic fundamentals. Most elements of the convergence criteria that were followed by the accession countries in Europe are fulfilled by the GCC member states, particularly during 2011-2014. The GCC states look similar in terms of sustainable growth, price stability and exchange rate stability – three aspects of convergence met by the European Union states. However, heavy dependence on oil and lack of diversification from oil and hydrocarbon-related products in the gross domestic product (GDP) composition of GCC states pose severe risks to the potential union. Fiscal vulnerabilities of these economies to oil price shocks, such as the current oil price crisis, create concerns for such a union during oil price lows. Widely divergent fiscal deficit-to-GDP ratios and rising debt-to-GDP ratios during periods of low oil prices imply the lack of sound and unsustainable public finances for some of the GCC states. The divergence has stemmed from widely different break-even oil prices for government budgets within the GCC and also due to varying degrees of oil dependencies between the member states. The scope of a successful and more sustainable EMU can be further explored once the GCC economics have achieved adequate diversity from oil.
The study is useful to policy makers, central banks, businesses and researchers since it highlights the EMU as a feasible option for the GCC states. The sustainability of the EMU is contingent on diversification of these economies in the future from oil and oil-related products. The study can be utilized by policy makers as a strategy to further restructure GCC economies towards greater resilience and integration prior to accession to the GCC EMU.
Ganguli, S. (2016), "An economic analysis of sustainability of a potential GCC economic and monetary union during 2005-2014", World Journal of Entrepreneurship, Management and Sustainable Development, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 194-206. https://doi.org/10.1108/WJEMSD-01-2016-0005Download as .RIS
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