It can be said that Qatar emerged from the blockade crisis more coherent, strong, and resilient than before, and did not respond to the demands of the blockading countries that violate the sovereignty and dignity and strengthened their independence. In its media, political and sovereign decision, and this in itself is a victory, for these are the reasons for which the blockade was imposed, but it failed to achieve it.
The blockade came to limit Qatar’s economic and political rise, but it was counter-productive. Instead of weakening the Qatari economy, it strengthened it. As I mentioned before, the blockade was a dose of immunization to give the Qatari economy the necessary immunity and strength, revealing some shortcomings and imbalances, (such as the focus on the import sector and transit trade, and the disruptive exposure to the supply of some consumer goods to certain countries) and pushing for more self-reliance And diversification necessarily (in production, import, and economic partners), limiting exposure to the blockading countries, more exposure to the countries of the world, strengthening Qatar’s geo-economic relations, and moving forward with building a strong economy in order to reduce exposure to shocks and destabilize future economic stability.
Why failed the blockade of Qatar?
I would like to recall 3 main factors that led to the failure of the blockade of Qatar, which are:
First: The weakness of the structural composition of the economies of the GCC countries, due to their excessive dependence on oil and their failure to diversify the economy. Therefore, they do not have much that they can exchange between them. Everyone specializes in extracting the same resource (oil) and exporting it to the outside world, and in return importing what he needs in terms of consumer, capital, and labor goods from outside the Gulf system through open international skies and seas. The failure of economic diversification along with the absence of political will led to the failure of trade and economic integration among the GCC states, which in turn contributed to the failure of the blockade of Doha. The blockading countries do not have the economic tools required to impose an effective blockade on Qatar. The demands were great, but the pressure tools to achieve them were weak.
Lifting the siege does not mean a return to these policies and the economic reforms that have taken place. In no case should Qatar return to the pre-blockade situation.
Second: The resilience of the Qatari economy and its own strength, as a result of adopting sound macroeconomic policies early on, established production, infrastructure, and investment structures that enabled building a strong economy capable of absorbing shocks, and formed arms to break the blockade.
Third: Sound economic policies against the blockade after it has been imposed. These include short-term policies to counter the impact of the shock and to enhance the stability of the import sector and the financial sector (which included diversifying supply lines, expanding absorptive capacities for food security and logistical supply purposes), including medium to long-term policies focused on diversifying import and production, and strengthening Qatar’s geo-economic relations. In the real and foreign sectors, Qatar has adopted a set of policies to develop the local product and maximize self-sufficiency by supporting agricultural and livestock production and light industries, diversifying trade partners, accumulating foreign investments, expanding the LNG industry to stay in the global lead, supporting growth and strengthening Qatar’s geo relations. Economic, by linking its exports and investments to countries influencing the global economic and political arenas. Here, I would like to pause at the anti-siege policies, and ask the following question:
Why should the policies of maximizing self-sufficiency and developing the local product be continued?
Lifting the siege does not mean a return to these policies and the economic reforms that have taken place. In no case should Qatar return to the pre-blockade situation. I mentioned, with the beginning of the siege, that if the siege was lifted tomorrow, this should not change anything, because this is the supposed sound situation without a siege or non-siege. Then, what is the guarantee that another scenario similar to the Gulf crisis will not be repeated? As well as analogy with the rest of the areas, especially security and defense.
Strategies such as self-sufficiency, food security, local product development, and any other matters related to national security should not be subject to political fluctuations, and how much fluctuation in the political mood in our Arab regions is, or that it sacrifices in favor of similar activities or joint projects with any external party. Policies for maximizing self-sufficiency and self-reliance must be continued, given the geographic position of Qatar and the status of our geopolitical region.
Europeans reached this advanced stage of maturity after harsh experiences and devastating wars between them, so the need and pressured circumstances prompted them to achieve a state of balance, stability and mutual respect.
This not only requires the adoption of programs to support and protect the local product and the nascent national industries, from unfair competition from the foreign producer and its local agents who are capable in the markets for long periods, as I called repeatedly before but also requires protecting it from the competition with the Gulf product after the blockade is lifted (especially commodities). Which can be classified by strategy). The achievements in this field should not be neglected. This requires reforming the monopolistic commercial agency system to reduce the monopoly of import, in a way that supports the development of the local product and guarantees the protection of the rights of the consumer and the importer alike. However, support and protection should not be absolute. Rather, they are conditional on achieving successes to be measured on the ground, so that these nascent industries can stand on their feet, and gradually raise support and protection so that Doha do not turn from monopolizing imports to monopolizing production.
Not to exaggerate the “sister country” model
The “sister state model” should not be exaggerated and loaded with what is intolerable, and the talk of empty emotions that is neither fat nor rich in hunger in the world of politics and the interests of states, and he is the one who failed with experience and proof in our Arab world. The term “sisterhood” is used to refer to the brotherhood of lineage and blood between individuals and not between nations. Europeans are not brothers and do not claim to be. They are of different races, lineages, and languages, but they have agreed to face challenges and achieve common interests, so they did not involve their political differences in trade and the economy.
The Europeans have reached this advanced stage of maturity after harsh experiences and destructive wars between them, so the need and pressured circumstances pushed them to the state of balance, stability, and mutual respect (regardless of size) that resulted in cooperation to face challenges and achieve common interests, so their unity succeeded. Doha has not yet reached the stage of maturity of the European Union, and if the regimes are not yet aware of the pressing economic and political conditions, they are inevitably coming.
Not raising the ceiling of expectations and relying too much on economic integration
It is also necessary not to rely now on (projects) of Gulf economic integration, such as plans to connect to networks: electricity, water, railways, natural gas, and the establishment of a customs and monetary union, and so on, all of which are beautiful ideas, and they remained so. It failed or stalled for decades before the Gulf crisis, and it has nothing to do with it. Rather, it and the Gulf crisis is the result of a persistent structural problem in the Gulf regimes due to a state of distrust and inherited or hidden apprehensions between these regimes, fueled by a tendency to extend the influence and domination of some members over some (the largest over the smaller). The Gulf crisis is nothing but a sharp symptom or an advanced case of this problem, which was finally evident in this acute crisis that almost blew over the existence of this Council.
Gulf economic integration has failed due to the lack of political will. If there are economic integration projects in which the largest country/state is not a source of control or the biggest player in it, then it is feared that it will constitute a source of competition for its influence and weaken its hegemony over the rest of the members, or that it will be used as tools of pressure, and therefore it is not desirable. Examples of this are many. Compare, for example, between the tremendous success of the Qatari gas trade at the global level, its failure at the Gulf level, and the failure of the electrical connection to a giant station supplying Qatari gas. It is not possible, for example, to link Kuwait and Bahrain to either of them without crossing the Saudi border. Likewise, the connection to a giant water desalination plant on the Arabian Sea (for security and technical reasons) and to a railway network failed so far, and the construction of a bridge between Qatar and Bahrain (due to the many fluctuations in political relations between the two countries, which are not without the presence of a third obstruction), and the customs union project stalled until right Now.
Gulf unity and European unity
As for the monetary union, it is the culmination of economic unity, and it is considered an advanced stage in the modest Gulf case. Although the GCC countries are better qualified economically than the euro countries to launch a single currency, the euro countries succeeded in launching their currency while the GCC countries failed. The reason for success and failure in both cases is two sides of the same coin, which is the availability of political will in the European case and its absence in the case. Gulf. The national currency has a dual-use, as it is a medium of exchange and at the same time an important symbol of national sovereignty and this is extremely important for autocratic regimes with a competitive tribal tendency.
Monetary unity also requires the abandonment of national financial policies in favor of a unified fiscal policy, but financial policies are important tools to enhance economic and political stability (especially in autocratic rentier regimes), and they also have a sovereign symbolism, and it is not easy to abandon them. As for the independence of monetary policies, the GCC countries have abandoned them since they pegged their currencies to the US dollar. So the cost of the material and moral monetary unit appears to be high compared to the expected gains in the case of the GCC countries that do not have a unitary economic or strategic objective.
Doha has not yet reached the stage of justifying the cost of giving up sovereignty and independence in national currencies and financial policies in favor of a unified Gulf currency, as in the European case. The ultimate goal of the European monetary union was politically par excellent, which is to reach a conflict-free and united Europe (politically and defensively) in the face of the expansion of Soviet and American influence after World War II, and the monetary union is only an intermediate goal to reach that final goal. So the political factor is the decisive factor in the success of economic integration projects (as in the European experience) and it is the decisive factor in their failure as well (as in the Gulf experience).
These existing conditions will not change unless the circumstances that created them change, namely:
- The disappearance of the state of mistrust and the tendency towards extending influence and hegemony, and respecting the independence and sovereignty of member states.
- The existence of pressing economic and political transformations that create a need, push towards economic and political integration and justify their costs.
- The existence of a unitary political or strategic goal on which these countries unite and achieve common strategic gains for them.
- Decreased dependence on oil and progress in the process of economic diversification, which will push more towards economic integration and justify its costs.
The density of natural resources combined with the lack of diversification of economies eliminates the need for economic integration, with its economic costs and political risks, in an environment of mistrust and the tendency to extend the hegemony of some members over some. Therefore, independence and being satisfied with the prevailing conditions was the best option.
Neither victor nor vanquished
So, after the Gulf crisis, will the GCC countries reach a conviction that everyone is a loser, and some accept others and reach a state of stability and balance in their inter-relationships, based on an awareness of common challenges and interests, and that the space for common gains that can be achieved in the case of cooperation is greater than It can be achieved from lack of cooperation or from disagreement and conflict, there are gains from the conflict in the first place. The GCC states have enormous natural resources, human beings, and other ingredients that, if properly exploited, would be built by a superpower from the world’s energy giants. So what is needed now?
What the GCC states must work on first and foremost is to build confidence, and I am not saying to restore confidence, because it was weak. There is a need to build trust.
How will you convince the investor on both sides that a scenario like the blockade of Qatar and the Gulf crisis will not be repeated in the future, and that his investments will not be damaged? The states of the Council must first and foremost work to build confidence, and the shortest and best way to achieve this now is to compensate those affected, in which there is recognition and correction of a mistake that has occurred, and a kind of guarantee that it will not be repeated in the future. This should not be seen as a form of defeat or loss of face. No, it is an investment in a better future for the countries and peoples of the region as a whole. The establishment of a Gulf court or the issuance of laws to protect investment are good ideas, but what are the implementation mechanisms in times of acute crises, such as the Gulf crisis, unlike within the framework of binding international agreements, as happened previously in the Qatari-Bahrain border dispute.
The extent of the benefit from the Gulf reconciliation
The extent of benefit from the Gulf reconciliation will depend on the extent of restoring confidence, which in turn depends on the seriousness of the reconciliation, or on the will and goodwill. Trust may be limited, or return to a pre-crisis level, and I do not think that it goes beyond that to the extent of maximizing the benefit from economic integration. Restoring confidence, however, will take time and test on the ground. Let us assume that confidence returns to the level before the Gulf crisis, as (then) the sectors that will directly benefit will be the sectors that were most affected by them, such as transport, tourism, and transit trade. Inter-business and investment will require more time, assuming reconciliation matters go well. Restoring confidence to the pre-crisis level, at the very least, will have a positive impact on the Gulf system as a whole.
Consider, for example, the impact on Qatar Airways. Opening the skies and airports in the region will reflect positively on it. It will reduce the costs of flying longer distances, save it with fees estimated at $ 100 million annually to use Iranian airspace, and increase the market share that was deprived of it in the region during the blockade, and this is supposed to be reflected positively by stimulating the activity of the tourism and transport sectors (individuals and goods) and from there to the rest of the sectors. Economic, provided that the opening of the airspace and neighboring airports will be reflected first by reducing air and freight costs on Qatar Airways, which rose significantly during the blockade, and before the Corona pandemic. This pandemic has a negative impact on the global aviation industry, but the prices of “Qatar Airways” were high in the Qatari market before that.