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Qatar and Saudi Arabia: If There a Relationship Between High Economic Countries With Support for Human Rights

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The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, ruled by the Al Saud family since its founding in 1932, wields significant global influence through its administration of the birthplace of the Islamic faith and by virtue of its large oil reserves. Close U.S.-Saudi official relations have survived a series of challenges since the 1940s

In recent years, shared concerns over Sunni Islamist extremist terrorism and Iranian government policies have provided some renewed logic for continued strategic cooperation.

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The MENA region benefited immensely from the wealth created by the sharp increase in oil prices in the 1970s. The explosion of investment and growth in the oil-exporting countries resonated in other countries of the region through a sharp rise in worker remittances, trade, and capital flows. Gross capital formation, although volatile, was maintained at exceptionally high rates, supporting a strong increase in growth rates of GDP and a vast improvement in living standards. Substantial financial assets were accumulated abroad as national savings exceeded investment, especially in the oil-producing countries. However, the region's economic performance during the next 20 years weakened as growth rates declined and failed to generate the employment opportunities sought by a rapidly expanding labor force. This deterioration in economic conditions brought about pressures for economic reforms, which were undertaken by a number of countries during the mid-to-late 1980s and early 1990s. Fiscal reforms included introducing value-added tax (VAT), phasing out subsidies, and improving management of public expenditure. Monetary policy frameworks were strengthened by introducing indirect monetary policy instruments. Trade regimes were liberalized and foreign direct investment (FDI) was encouraged while exchange rates became more flexible. In subsequent years, the countries that pursued reforms, such as Egypt, Jordan, Mauritania, Morocco, and Tunisia, enjoyed the region's most rapid growth rates. Although the momentum for reform has slackened more recently, other macroeconomic outcomes have remained positive in much of the region. For example, inflation has been low and on the decline for most of the 1990s; fiscal deficits, while persisting, have narrowed since the mid-1980s to levels below those of other developing countries

Financial crises, which plagued other regions during the past two decades, were averted. In addition, for a large number of countries in the region, external and domestic debts are not high by international standards, and debt service is low.

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Accordingly, both countries have taken strategic measures to secure their respective water and food supplies. For example, Saudi Arabia adopted a strategy in the 1980s known as “greening the desert”. However, due to the scarcity of its water resources Saudi Arabia has decided to guarantee food security by externalizing food production and has almost abandoned “the idea of food self-sufficiency”, investing instead in lands outside the country (Ferragina and Canitano 2015: 49). Saudi Arabia’s vision plan thus emphasizes land purchase or lease in other countries for agricultural purposes, as an efficient strategy. Regarding Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as part of GCC, Eugenia Ferragina and Giovanni Canitano state that some members of the GCC have adopted a set of long-term food security strategies by encouraging their people to undertake overseas investments in food production.Since 2011, the GCC countries and the Arab Mediterranean countries have shown a strategic interest in each other, and the unrest and turmoil in the post-Arab Spring countries has propelled this partnership. Since that time, the GCC countries have sought greater influence in the administration of these countries by providing them with financial and political aid. Although the Arab Mediterranean countries are looking into new economic ties to help overcome their financial hardship, they are wary of possible political agendas behind the GCC’s intentions and enthusiasm for investment (Gomaa, Ahmed (2017). Whereas the GCC’s investment in the region has been on the rise, it is much lower in total when compared to their investments in other developing regions

Moreover, agriculture and water constitute a smaller part of this integration, as will be discussed in the following section. Nevertheless, fear of rising GCC influence remains. According to the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).

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Given these points, as dysfunctional as the situation may appear, the most likely means of restoring at least a modicum asabîyah would be to remove the dispute from the center stage of peninsular politics, which poses a zero-sum solution for Qatar and Saudi Arabia/UAE. Despite the sounding death-knell of the GCC, movements off the political and juridical center stage appear to be taking shape

Qatar should have good reason to choose a softer route, unless it senses the generational demise of the House of Al Saud is approaching.

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Ferragina, Eugenia and Giovanni Canitano (2015), “Geopolitical Implications of Water and Food Security in Southern and Eastern Mediterranean Countries”, in Maria Cristina Paciello, ed.,Building Sustainable Agriculture for Food Security in the Euro-Mediterranean Area: Challenges and Policy Options, Roma, Nuova Cultura, p. 33-59, http://www.iai.it/en/node/4251

Gomaa, Ahmed (2017), “Do Oil Shipments to Egypt Mark New Chapter for Egypt, Saudi Relations?”, in Al-Monitor, 24 March, http://almon.co/2u7e

Hertog, Steffen (2010), Princes, Brokers, and Bureaucrats. Oil and the State in Saudi Arabia, Ithaca and London, Cornell University Press

Hussein, Jassim (2012), “GCC Sovereign Fund Investments in Morocco”, in Al Jazeera Centre for Studies Reports, 22 January, http://fw.to/YY4k4bZ

Mabrouk, Sharif Shaba’an (2016), “Gulf Investments in the Arab Maghreb Countries: A Partnership of Interests and the Integration of Peoples and Nations” (in Arabic), in Araa Magazine, 9 May, http://araa.sa/index.php?view=article&id=3736:2016-05-09-08-13-19

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