The Gulf area

The Gulf Economic Area is represented by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, a subset of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region: Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. GCC is a regional organisation established in May 1981. All the GCC member states are members of the Arab League and Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates are members of the OPEC. Some of the stated objectives of the GCC include: i) the formulation of similar regulations in fields of common interest such as religion, finance, trade, tourism, legislation, and administration; ii) the promotion of scientific and technical progress in industry, mining and agriculture; iii) a unified military force; iv) the promotion of joint ventures and private sector initiatives; v) the introduction of a common currency.

The GCC covers approximately 2,673,108 km2, and is home to a population of around 50.76 million with an estimated GDP at around 1.66 billion USD at the end of 2014. The GCC countries are characterised by high levels of GDP per capita, at around 33,000 USD although some of the countries have much higher. For example, the GDP per capita in Qatar is around 95,000 USD (directly comparable to that of Luxembourg and Norway) at the end of 2014.

These countries have been experiencing high economic growth fueled by soaring oil revenues. While largely unaffected by the global financial crisis, most of the countries have embarked on projects to diversify their income sources away from oil and gas exports in order to reduce the future volatility of their income streams. As a result, infrastructure, tourism and financial services are economic areas with significant growth. With regards to financial areas, the GCC is particularly known as a hub for Islamic finance. Penetration of Islamic banks is higher than other parts of the world and is proving to be a significant alternative way of financing.