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Economic Stability in the GCC Countries

About the Project

The project explores alternative methods of measuring economic diversification and investigating its associated impacts on the Saudi Arabian economy and other GCC countries. By utilizing a financial portfolio framework reconciled with economic growth theory, the economy is viewed as a portfolio of economic sectors, each contributing to the overall output growth. Results demonstrated that diversification policies have been effective, as the economy moves towards higher growth with lower instability.

Key Points

Evidence confirms that there is a positive correlation between the economic growth rate and its volatility/risk in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region. In other words, there is a trade-off between the benefits of oil and gas activity and the volatility resulting from unpredictable commodity price swings in such resource dependent economies.

Our analysis uses a financial portfolio framework approach (and more specifically an efficient frontier analysis), treating economic sectors as individual investments. We calculate a relative risk measure termed the ‘beta coefficient’ and assemble a portfolio of sectors with varying weights to find the efficient frontier. If the beta of the portfolio representing the economy is above global average, the economy will generally grow faster than the global average but with greater volatility – the upturns will be higher and the downturns deeper. We aim to shed light on diversification policy from this novel, if not yet widely accepted, perspective.

The GCC economies exhibit ‘high beta,’ particularly Qatar. Saudi Arabia sits in the middle of the group, but above the global average, while Oman has the lowest coefficient of the group.

Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Plan to 2020 and economic Vision 2030 envisage an economy that is still invested in oil and gas activity at 45 percent of total output. While diversification policies in these plans promote economic growth, it still leaves the economy exposed to the volatility of energy markets. In comparison, the optimal mix of economic sectors could increase the growth rate by more than 1 percent annually and nearly halve the expected volatility (to less than 60 percent of growth rate).

Saudi Arabia’s historical economic policies were effective in achieving some diversification. However, their benefits could be increased by policies that balance productive efficiency with diversification of economic activity.

The difference between policy-optimized portfolio and non-constrained optimization can be used to estimate the size of the fiscal stabilization fund needed to protect the economy from stop/go risks to diversification objectives.

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