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publication April 29, 2019

World Bank Gulf Economic Update


The Gulf Economic Update is a biannual report published twice a year from the World Bank in order to highlight the key challenges facing the GCC countries and to stimulate debate among policy makers and other readers on how best to confront the challenges. Each edition takes a close look at recent economic developments and short-term prospects for Gulf countries. It also includes economic forecasts for individual Gulf nations and an analytical section that explores structural reform priorities or special focus areas for development in the region.

Issue 11: Economic Diversification Efforts Paying Off in GCC Region but More Reforms Needed

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is estimated to grow by 1% in 2023 before picking up again to 3.6 and 3.7 % in 2024 and 2025, respectively, according to the recently published World Bank Gulf Economic Update (GEU) report. The weaker performance this year is driven primarily by lower oil sector activities, which is expected to contract by 3.9%, to reflect OPEC+ successive production cuts and the global economic slowdown.

Issue 10: The Health and Economic Burden of Non-Communicable Diseases in the GCC

The Gulf Economic Update report presents the latest economic developments in the GCC region and highlights medium-term prospects. It also tracks implementation of structural reforms in an effort to push the diversification agenda forward. In this issue, the report focuses on Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) in the GCC and the growing threat that NCDs pose to the health and economies of the region. NCDs such as cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and respiratory disease have become the leading cause of death and disability in the region. 

Issue 9: Green Growth Opportunities in the GCC

This issue of the Gulf Economic Update includes a special section focused on GCC green growth opportunities for the GCC countries as the world accelerates transition to a greener future. Moving away from fossil fuels towards greener energy should not be seen as a threat but as a tremendous opportunity. This direction is entirely in line with GCC country vision documents that outline an image of the economy of the future that relies increasingly on the private sector playing a leading role in investment, job creation and value addition.

Issue 8: Achieving Climate Change Pledges

This issue of the Gulf Economic Update includes a special section focused on GCC Achieving Climate change Pledges. The GCC countries rebounded robustly from the pandemic in 2021 and the beginning of 2022. Thanks to a successful vaccination roll-out, the GCC has been able to weather the COVID-19 storm and resume strong economic activity. Easing of pandemic restrictions, and positive developments in the hydrocarbon market drove strong recoveries in 2021 across the GCC. Fiscal deficits across the GCC markedly improved and the GCC external balance is estimated at pre-pandemic levels in 2021 as energy prices and export earnings strengthened.

Issue 7: Seizing the Opportunity for a Sustainable Recovery

This issue of the Gulf Economic Update includes a special section focused on the GCC public sector wage bill.  This is placed in the context of the existing social contract whereby in addition to well-paid, public sector jobs, GCC governments have provided free health care, education, social security benefits, and subsidized housing and utilities to their citizens in return for their acceptance of the status quo. This model worked well while oil prices were high and local populations limited.

Issue 6:  COVID-19 Pandemic and the Road to Diversification

In this issue of the Gulf Economic Update, the focus is on fiscal revenues and structural reforms including strategic investments in digitalization and telecommunications. Strategic investment in advanced telecommunications technologies, including 5G, is underway in the GCC. But beyond capital spending on infrastructure, the telecommunications sector would benefit greatly from improvements in the legal, regulatory, and competition frameworks under which service providers operate.

Issue 5: Economic Diversification for a Sustainable and Resilient GCC

Economic growth in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states, our latest edition finds, significantly weakened in 2019; overall real GDP growth is estimated to drop to 0.8% in 2019 from 2% in 2018 before gradually gradually recovering in 2020-21. This edition of the Gulf Economic Update explores the links between economic diversification and environmental sustainability. The analysis highlights the need to integrate environmental sustainability and ecosystem resilience considerations into the decision-making process on the diversification paths and options in the GCC countries.

Issue 4: Building the foundations for economic sustainability: Human capital and growth in the GCC

This fourth issue finds that the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region is expected to increase from 2.0% last year to 2.1% in 2019, before accelerating to 3.2% in 2020 and stabilizing at 2.7% in 2021.The report commends ongoing reforms made towards improving the business environment in the region. However, to achieve more sustainable growth, the GCC countries need to support fiscal consolidation, economic diversification, and increase private sector-led job creation, especially for women and young people. The report also focuses on enhancing human capital, which is an important task to achieve successful and sustainable economic diversification and growth. There are four approaches that can enhance human capital in the GCC if countries adopt a holistic governmental strategy to improving health and education outcomes.

Issue 3, November 2018: Staying the Course on Reforms

The third edition of the Gulf Economic Monitor finds that a sustained increase in oil prices over the past two years has driven an economic recovery in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Economic growth for the GCC region is expected to reach 2% in 2018, up from negative 0.3% in 2017, thanks in part to higher oil production and a slower pace of fiscal consolidation. However, volatility in oil prices, manifest in recent sharp declines over the past month, and continued heavy dependence on energy sector, underscore the importance of staying the course of structural reforms.

Issue 2, March 2018: Deepening Reforms

The second edition of the twice-yearly Gulf Economic Monitor describes recent economic developments and finds that regional aggregate GDP growth in 2017 weakened to just 0.5%, weighed down by oil production cuts and tighter fiscal policy that took a toll on non-oil growth. Prospects, however, are for a gradual strengthening, helped by the partial recovery in energy prices, the expiration of oil production cuts after 2018, and an easing of fiscal austerity. Aggregate growth in the region is expected to strengthen to 2.1 and 2.7% in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Risks to the outlook include potential external headwinds resulting from the tightening of monetary policy in advanced economies and/or geopolitical tensions that lead to volatility in global financial markets or commodity prices.

Issue 1, June 2017: Sustaining Fiscal Reforms in the Long-term

This edition takes a look at background issues affecting the economic outlook of the region and the overview recaps the partial recovery in global oil prices over the past year, OPEC’s decision to curb oil supply, and the effects on public finances and reform initiatives as well as banking and financial sector activities. The report visits how the fall of oil prices has affected GCC countries, and what challenges lie ahead for improving non-oil-sector economic growth in the countries. It also discusses how the World Bank provides technical assistance to the GCC countries, and what lies ahead for this partnership. Data sets for each country are provided in summary tables as well as commodity price forecasts and oil production statistics.