The GCC will emerge from the global economic crisis faster and stronger than others if it continues to work together, said Shaikh Mohammed bin Essa Al Khalifa, Chief Executive of Bahrain’s Economic Development Board (EDB), in a speech at the Wharton Global Alumni Forum in Dubai last week (12 March).
Speaking at the Forum, ‘At the Crossroads for Global Economic Change’, Shaikh Mohammed said that the measures that Bahrain and its neighbors had taken in recent years mean that the global crisis is likely to impact less on the GCC than on some others. The Forum, the first in the Middle East, was organized by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the world’s first collegiate business school and recognized for its work worldwide to transform public policy and business practice. Over 300 Wharton graduates attended.
Delivering his address in the concluding panel discussion: ‘The Impact of the Financial Crisis on the Middle East’, Shaikh Mohammed told the audience: “The Middle East has inevitably suffered along with the rest of the world but are we in the Gulf in the same boat as everyone else? No, we are not. It is a question of degree. Our problems are real but much smaller than those faced by others because we do not have the same deep structural problems. Our Governments and external balances are stronger than in other regions. Taking everything into account – low debts and high investment, domestic diversification and regional cooperation – we can be reasonably confident that we will emerge from the global crisis faster and stronger than other regions.”
Discussing his hopes for GCC partnership for preservation and growth, Shaikh Mohammed anticipated more cooperation and trade among GCC partners in the future.
“Let us remember that each country is linked to its neighbors and trading partners. When we work together, we in the Gulf are stronger and more likely to emerge with a renewed ability to provide a better tomorrow for our people. We may not be as integrated as the European Union – a much older institution – but more and more we trade and invest across our borders. And we have common shareholdings in banking and financial institutions. All these developments are good. Taken together, we are safer and stronger than if we operate in isolation.”
Shaikh Mohammed noted some of the domestic measures taken to strengthen the long term sustainability of Bahrain that have thus far seen the global crisis impact less on the Kingdom than on some others in the region. These include prudent financial policies, long term strategy of economic diversification and a tried and tested legal and regulatory environment.
“We have adopted a careful, strategic approach in good times and bad. We have put in place the infrastructure to enable business to work efficiently, with the tax and legal structures to match; diversified into manufacturing, professional services, financial services – including Islamic finance – and other industries; and limited our exposure to real estate and to risks caused by excessive borrowing.”
Shaikh Mohamed was selected by the World Economic Forum (WEF) as one of its young global leaders of 2007 in recognition of his professional accomplishments, commitment to society and potential to contribute to shaping the future of the world.
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