December 8 – 9, 2019 Muscat, Sultanate of Oman
Since the early 1970s, successive economic development plans in each of the six members of the Gulf Cooperating Council have emphasized economic diversification as the major path towards achieving long-term sustainable growth. Oil revenues were used to realize investments in infrastructure, provision of services and in particular education and health as well as to build up savings in sovereign wealth funds and other external saving instruments. The oil revenues were also used to provide for transfers and jobs to nationals in the public sector with relatively higher wages and benefits than is offered in the private sector. Thus, growth in the GCC economies became increasingly driven by public spending which, in turn, tilted the production structure towards non-tradable goods and services at the expense of tradables. Importantly, no GCC country has managed to create the required human capital to generate sophisticated exports and drive economic diversification forward.
The decline in oil prices that began in 2014, combined with increasing demands on governments’ purses led the GCC economies to shift their attention to structural reforms designed to promote productivity and encourage the private sector to assume a larger role in the economy. Efforts at structural reforms should focus on: Building a robust human capital base and develop the institutional capacity for effectively deploying it in order to affect the orientation toward the knowledge economy; Following a “rules-based” economic policy framework rather than “discretionary” processes; Steering the structure of incentives in the economy towards skill- intensive tradable sectors that could also provide attractive jobs for nationals; and, Engineering a much more sophisticated industrial policy that encourages productivity growth.
The above suggested development strategy entails undertaking a coherent set of institutional and policy reforms at both the micro and macroeconomic levels as well as critical assessing the social consequences of the current and potential economic programs.
Subscribing to the above overview, the ERF and a consortium of GCC universities have recently launched the GCC Economic Research Initiative (GCCeRI), which is aimed at building a network for GCC researchers where they can interact with each other and the wider ERF research community to share ideas and collaborate on policy-oriented research. In this context, the GCCeRI would provide a platform for GCC researchers and policy makers to discuss research and policy issues as well as regional and global developments; and, disseminate research outcomes to the public through means of publications, newsletters, conferences and workshops. This conference is designed to be the major inaugural event of the GCCeRI.
The conference will start with a keynote speech that discusses the Oman experience in diversification and the new economic vision Oman 2040. It will also discuss the opportunities and challenges facing the GCC economics. It will look at how the GCC countries are adjusting to the low oil price environment, the role of oil in macroeconomic stability, the speed of fiscal adjustment, and the challenges of sustainability. In addition, it will discuss the role of Islamic Finance in terms of macroeconomic stability.
The conference is organized jointly by the Economic Research Forum and the College of Economics and Political Science at the Sultan Qaboos University. It will convene around 70 researchers from the region and outside it and will last for two days.