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The politics of economic reform in Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf - can the 'Visions’ become reality?

Dr. Kristian Coates-Ulrichsen Baker Institute, Rice University, Houston Texas.

This keynote puts the attempts by Arab Gulf States and Iran to launch large-scale development programs into historical and comparative context. Strategic ‘visions’ have been a hallmark of regional policymaking for more than two decades but persistent difficulties in implementation have meant that the plans have fallen far short of intended outcomes. By focusing on the practical and political challenges of technocratic and economic reforms, using specific examples to illustrate broader thematic points, this address analyses what the current generation of officials need to do differently in order to secure more favourable and sustainable results. Although the prolonged fall in oil prices has opened a ‘window of opportunity’ to introduce politically and economically sensitive reforms, the urgency of the fiscal pressures on budgets on both sides of the Gulf means there is little margin for error, and it is vital that decision-makers absorb the lessons from the flawed earlier attempts at reform that did not adequately link their economic and political dimensions. The urgency of the fiscal pressures that face Middle Eastern oil producing states means that policymakers no longer have the luxury of the slow pace of incremental change that has characterized previous episodes of reform in GCC states. Public talk, all welcome.

Event details


IAIS Building/LT2