OBG talks to Abdul Latif bin Rashed Al Zayani, Secretary-General, GCC

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Abdul Latif bin Rashed Al Zayani, Secretary-General, GCC

Interview: Abdul Latif bin Rashed Al Zayani

In what way is Qatar involved in fostering more economic integration among GCC member states?

ABDUL LATIF BIN RASHED AL ZAYANI: Establishing joint ventures and linking infrastructure between GCC states has involved all nations and is facilitating economic integration and the idea of a GCC common market. All member states recognise the importance of setting up such projects for the sustainability of individual economies and for the benefit of the GCC as a whole.

I would like to highlight just two such projects: firstly, the linking of national electricity grids, which began in 2009 and will be completed soon when Oman joins the new GCC interconnection grid; and secondly, our plans for a railway network, due to be commissioned in 2018, to connect all the major cities of the GCC, starting with a link between Kuwait and Muscat.

The 2007 Doha Declaration establishing the GCC Common Market represented the embodiment of the principle of “Gulf citizenship”, in that GCC citizens should be treated in any member state without discrimination in all fields of economic and commercial activities, investment, health, social services and education. In all these initiatives, and many more, Qatar is always at the forefront of support and initiative.

How can Qatar best support the GCC's goal of promoting regional stability, and how does this impact the regional economy?

AL ZAYANI: The role of the former Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, in all matters concerned with the strengthening of regional security are well recognised. We are confident that His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani will continue the support for GCC strategies and policies. We will count on the role of Qatar to move projects at all levels forward in order to promote regional and international stability. Qatar, like other GCC states, can best support regional security by continuing to demonstrate strength through unity and determination. Without security, the region’s economies will be jeopardised.

What regulatory adjustments need to be implemented in order to boost GCC intra-regional trade?

AL ZAYANI: Much has already been done with intra-regional trade of GCC states that have been evolving considerably since the establishment of the Customs Union in 2003. At present the process of having a full Customs Union is still under way, but following the 2011 decision of the Supreme Council, it is expected that GCC states will be in a position to complete all stages of the union in early 2015.

The end of the transitional period will be marked when all our members agree to the details of the many complexities and regulatory adjustments involved. At that point it could be said that there will no longer be a major intra-GCC Customs role at points of entry, except of course where it involves security, health, quarantine and other such aspects. We are confident that this will encourage local initiatives, thus developing local markets, which, it is hoped, will in turn enter regional and global markets as exporters.

What role is Qatar playing in efforts throughout the GCC to transition from hydrocarbons-based to knowledge-based economies?

AL ZAYANI: Qatar and all GCC states have long realised the challenges faced by the contemporary world in terms of rapid development and promoting information technology and science. We fully understand the need to adapt to such changes and to develop a knowledge-led, rather than a resource-fed economy.

All GCC states understand the role of education for tomorrow’s leaders in developing such skills. In addition, there is a psychological factor to understand and develop a culture of innovation and entrepreneurial skills, particularly in the widest fields of technology, science, finance and industry, while at the same time not ignoring the arts. Qatar is at the forefront, both nationally and as a team member of the GCC, not just of such thinking, but also in taking measures to ensure that their vision becomes a reality.

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