By Arab News
Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, second deputy premier and minister of defense, said GCC as a bloc has the potential to become the sixth largest economy in the world if it acts wisely in the coming years.
He was speaking at the first meeting of the GCC’s Commission of Economic and Developmental Affairs at the Conference Palace in Riyadh on Thursday.
The prince said: “Today we should try to take advantage of opportunities, knowing that we live in an era of many economic fluctuations around the world, and we are in need of cementing a bloc in the era of blocs.
“We want, through this meeting, to proceed toward realizing the goal of the GCC leaders and people, which is to achieve growth and prosperity.”
The deputy crown prince stressed that many achievements have been attained recently, “which have had positive returns and benefits for our countries and people,” adding that many more opportunities can be grasped in order to ensure further economic prosperity, growth and security in the GCC countries.
The meeting was attended by Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al-Nahyan, UAE’s deputy prime minister and minister of presidential affairs; Nasser bin Hamad Al-Khalifa, representative of the King of Bahrain for humanitarian and youth affairs; Khalid bin Hilal bin Saud Al-Bousaeedi, minister of the Royal Court of Oman and his country’s representative at the commission; Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassem Al-Thani, Qatari minister of foreign affairs; Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, Kuwaiti minister of state for Cabinet affairs; and Abdullatif Al-Zayani, secretary-general of the GCC.
The closing statement specified the commission’s goals to explore and discuss economic and development issues of interest to member states, and take the necessary decisions on these issues, as well as look into policies, recommendations, studies and projects that aim to promote cooperation, coordination and integration among member states in these areas, in line with regional and global economic and development trends.
The commission will also monitor GCC decisions and agreements related to economy and development and look into issues referred to it by the Supreme Council of the GCC and from other ministerial committees.
The establishment of the higher-level Commission of Economic and Developmental Affairs comes in line the vision of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman to enhance integration and coordination among GCC states in all areas, as well as to facilitate joint action to achieve the GCC’s objectives.
Participants highlighted the vital role the commission is expected to play, saying that it would be a force driving economic and development aspects, and joint GCC efforts.
In view of the significant steps and economic development in the GCC countries that resulted in better standards of living for their citizens, participants said that the time has come to make a quantum leap forward and boost the quality of life in its entirety, enhance the effectiveness and competitiveness of the GCC economies, and improve the status and role of the GCC countries in the global economy.
They also stressed the urgent need to spur development of economic sectors so as to contribute toward further economic growth and the establishment of new industries alongside those involved in the oil industry, by attracting more investment and boosting economic competitiveness.
A number of steps must accompany the goal of doubling the efficiency of the current basic infrastructure, information, and know-how, as well as of continuing to develop the education system at all stages, enhance the abilities of qualified cadres and graduates, update the legislative framework and structure, and incentivize and boost investments.
Other important measures include finding more funding sources to support innovative ideas and initiatives.
Accordingly, GCC representatives identified five key priorities that must be attended to immediately. They are:
- Taking all decisions and implementing the steps necessary to improve joint GCC economic efforts and to achieve a quantum leap in this area.
- Implementing all economic decisions by adopting the necessary mechanisms to do so.
- Conducting a comprehensive review of policies, programs and economic development initiatives of the GCC in order to develop them and ensure their efficiency, in line with the best international practices.
- Creating all legal, structural, financial and human resource components needed to develop and enhance joint economic action in the GCC and reach the advanced levels that have been arrived at in many other fields.
- Giving great attention to all issues pertaining to youth affairs, and providing all the necessary support to innovation, entrepreneurship and new initiatives in economic activities undertaken by the youth in order to support their role as essential pillars of the Gulf economy.
The commission aims to overcome obstacles facing Gulf economic integration, including addressing different regulations and procedures among countries, as well as activate agreements related to the Customs Union, the Gulf Common Market and a unified Gulf currency.
Other priorities include matters pertaining to foreign workers, transfer of investment and Gulf capital, unification of Gulf stock exchanges and facilitated trade between GCC countries.
The creation of the Commission of Economic and Developmental Affairs sends the message that Gulf cooperation is about to become Gulf integration, the attendees said.
The commission will have a specific organizational structure designed to facilitate its follow-up on all matters issued by GCC countries that concern economic and development issues.
GCC leaders recently decided to establish the high-level Commission of Economic and Developmental Affairs, consisting of GCC member states, in an effort to link, integrate and organize relations between member states in all economic and development areas, as well as to facilitate joint work to achieve the goals stipulated in the GCC countries’ statutes.
The meeting comes on the heels of the 16th Consultative GCC Summit in Jeddah, which approved the formation of the higher-level Commission of Economic and Developmental Affairs, which also aims to implement the vision of King Salman to establish such a commission that would accelerate joint action to achieve the GCC’s economic and development objectives.
The commission’s roles include monitoring the implementation of the vision of the king and looking into policies, recommendations, studies and projects that aim to develop cooperation, coordination and integration among member states in economic and developmental affairs. The commission will also encourage, develop, and coordinate activities between member states in economic and development affairs, as well as take necessary measures, decisions and recommendations while monitoring the implementation of economic decisions, agreements and regulations of the GCC.
It is hoped that the commission will have a role in bridging varying viewpoints among the economies of the six countries, which is needed at this time in order to ensure the success of projects aiming at economic integration and the eventual formation of a Gulf union.
The commission will also work to support many steps required to achieve economic integration, and is expected to move from legislation, strategy and planning to implementation and becoming a specialized authority.
The goal of the commission is to eliminate any obstacles that hinder such Gulf economic integration, including economic and commercial regulations and measures that may vary from one country to another, as well as to activate agreements.
The preparatory ministerial meeting for the meeting of the Commission of Economic and Developmental Affairs was held last week under the auspices of Minister of Economy and Planning Adel Fakeih in Riyadh.
The meeting’s agenda included a discussion of all matters to be brought before the commission, as well as a discussion about the international regulations of the commission, its organizational structure and work mechanism.