Finance ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)  yesterday discussed the status of billions of dollars in development aid to be given to Bahrain, Oman, Jordan, Yemen and Morocco.
The move to extend financial support is significant keeping in view the fact that major donors’ aid to developing countries have fallen significantly due to the global economic recession and regional developments in the Middle East. The ministers decided to make contributions on priority basis in an effort to make available approved financial aid to the two GCC member states — Bahrain and Oman as early as possible.
The finance ministers, who met here as part of the GCC 93rd ministerial meeting of the GCC Finance and Economic Cooperation, also reviewed the intra-GCC railway project . Finance Minister Dr. Ibrahim Al-Assaf, who is also current chairman of the GCC Committee of Financial and Economic Cooperation, presided over the meeting at the GCC General Secretariat
It was attended by GCC Secretary General Abdullatif Al-Zayani, Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mustafa Al-Shimali, Bahraini Finance Minister Shaikh Ahmed bin Mohammed Al Khalifa and other GCC ministers.
Speaking at the event, Al-Assaf said: “A number of key financial issues including the proposed aid to Jordan, Morocco and Yemen were taken up for discussions at the meeting.” Late last year, the Gulf states announced the setting up of a $5 billion fund for development plans in Jordan and Morocco.
They will receive $2.5 billion each for development projects. The GCC Supreme Council earlier assigned the finance ministers to study the statute and structures needed to create the fund. Al-Assaf pointed out that important aspects related to the creation of the fund were discussed at the meeting.
“But, the details on how to disburse the aid would be decided by the consultative committee meeting of GCC heads of state, to be held on May 15 in Riyadh,” he added. Al-Assaf also underlined the urgent need for financial assistance to these countries especially Yemen.
The Kingdom and also the GCC member states in their individual capacities have also been working to help the struggling Egyptian economy. The ministers also discussed a proposal to lift the tariff on imports of eight commodities widely used by the persons with special needs.
The meeting also reviewed several other important issues of concerns in the field of finance and economy. They included the GCC Customs Union, Common Market and establishment of a GCC audit organization.
The minister also reviewed the ongoing negotiations with international economic and commercial organizations besides foreign countries and economic blocs. It was not immediately known whether the GCC finance ministers discussed the plan to impose a 100 percent hike in “health tax” on cigarettes and other tobacco products imported in the GCC.
Majed Al-Monief, an official of the Ministry of Health, said that the ministers of finance and health from the GCC states have already decided, at least in principal, to raise the tariff from the present 100 percent to 200 percent. The additional funds raised via the health tax will be used to help prevent smoking and hopefully raise awareness of the impact smoking has, especially on young people.