x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

GCC policy maturity bodes well for the future

The summit elicited tangible proposals by leaders that may well help to secure the region’s future.

This year's GCC Summit has not been slow off the starting block. Reinvigorating the council's relevance and proving the necessity of a region-wide policy body, the summit elicited tangible proposals by leaders that may well help to secure the region's future.

Indeed, the summit's emphasis on regional water security shows it is catching up with global concerns. As The National reported yesterday, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan put forth a plan to create greater water security by encouraging local awareness campaigns and exploring water-saving technology.

As half of the world's desalinated water is produced in the GCC, a 15-point plan aimed at sustaining this vital resource is commendable. Such a policy not only has the potential to reduce the GCC's carbon footprint, but to address the economic drain that accompanies our water consumption.

Leaders also gave a boost to local businesses by announcing that GCC firms will now be able to set up shop in other member states. The impact for both the business community and consumers alike is significant. "It will reduce costs and encourage smaller companies to set up branches," said Dr Abdel Aluwaisheg, the GCC director general of international economic relations.

The ruling also has the potential to change business relations. Most firms currently rely on family connections with nationals of other states to find partners. But that barrier to entry for smaller GCC retail businesses may now be overcome. Equal treatment could also mean equal access to banking and financial services, including credit - sure to be good news for the GCC's bankers.

But while the agreement has the potential to liberalise the business environment, there are caveats to bear in mind. Only businesses wholly owned and managed by GCC nationals are included in the agreement, and they must have been registered for three years. It will also take time for the ratified agreement to become a workable reality. The business community and consumer advocacy groups will have to weigh in on how new legislation should best enter the books of GCC nations.

This week's summit showed a policy maturity that bodes well for the future. Now, the task is to move what is down on paper forward.