Despite these promising forecasts, there is still a question mark over how such growth is to be managed, given the possibility of negative consequences, such as a shortage of electric power or a steep rise in the price of food. One of the major challenges for the region is to ensure efficient management of energy, water and the supply of food, all of which are necessary to provide the population with a high standard of living, while ensuring sustainable development.
To secure energy resources, the Gulf States intend to investigate new opportunities and to continue the initiatives on which they have already embarked: investing massively in alternative energies such as solar energy and nuclear power.
Production of drinking water is also one of the key strategic issues in the coming years. The weather patterns in the Gulf States are characterised by varying degrees of drought interspersed with rare and irregular rainfall. At the present time, desalination of seawater provides 60 percent of the region s drinking water requirements, a figure which rises to 98 percent in the UAE. The Gulf States will therefore need to continue to invest in order to expand their desalination facilities.
However, the most demanding task, and certainly the most important in terms of future development, is how to make the transition from a production economy to a knowledge economy . The Gulf States are now focusing on high-tech development, scientific research and the cultural sector. This will require financing, greater private sector involvement in the economy and investment in skills.
Most countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have accumulated large surpluses due to elevated global hydrocarbon prices. This has allowed strong government investment in areas such as transportation infrastructure, education and health, to play an important role in the economy, creating employment directly and through a multiplier effect.
Since the early 2000s, the region s skylines have changed dramatically, with the world s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, built in Dubai, and sparkling new financial centres built in the UAE, Qatar, and the Kingdoms of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. Abu Dhabi is becoming a centre for high-end travel and tourism, establishing branches of the Louvre and Guggenheim museums in its Saadiyat Island cultural hub.
Meanwhile, projects such as the Gulf Rail network, which will link all six GCC countries, the King Fahad Causeway linking the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Kingdom of Bahrain and the planned Qatar-Bahrain causeway are aiding the process of regional economic integration.
The region is also evolving to host major global events, including the FIFA World Cup in Qatar in 2022 and the Dubai s Expo 2020, which are acting as a stimulus for local economies.
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