New Delhi: Businesses are getting cautious across
the Middle East and not taking major investment decisions as many
believe the political uprisings like in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen,
Libya and Bahrain may alter the strategic balance in the restive
"What is happening in Bahrain is, of course, affecting the
business sentiments in other countries in the region. People are
apprehensive," Adeeb Mohammed Idrees, a Riyadh based businessman,
Idrees, general manager of Green Emerald, a company with major
interests in investment, trading and diversified manufacturing,
said most businesses, especially foreign firms were watching the
development anxiously and keeping new projects or expansion on
Political unrest is sweeping the Arab world as popular uprisings
toppled governments in Egypt and Tunisia, while Libya, Yemen and
Algeria are witnessing widespread protests against their
respective governments. There have also been demonstrations in
Algeria, Jordan, Iraq and Morocco.
However, what is most disturbing for the businesses in the Gulf
region -- home to some 5 million Indian diaspora, accounting for
nearly 70 percent of the inward remittances of around $57 billion
into the country -- is the rising political unrest in Bahrain.
"Bahrain has been a liberal, stable country. What is happening now
is quite disturbing," chairman of India-Saudi Arabia Joint
Business Council Abdulrahman Al-Rabiah, who is heading a business
delegation to New Delhi, told IANS.
Rabiah said Saudi Arabia would offer all possible help to
Bahrain's government to crush the revolt and bring back normalcy
in the Island.
Accusing Tehran for inciting revolt in Manama, the capital and
largest city of Bahrain, Rabiah said a stable and prosperous
Bahrain was crucially important for maintaining peace and
prosperity in the Gulf region.
The six member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council -- Bahrain,
Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates --
have an estimated total population of 38 million and a $1 trillion
The larger Arab world comprises 22 countries and territories
spread over parts of North Africa and West Asia, with a total
population of 360 million. Their collective gross domestic product
was estimated at around $2.75 trillion in 2009.
When asked about the possibility of Bahrain-like unrest in other
Gulf countries, Rabiah said: "Social composition is different in
other Gulf countries. So there is hardly any possibility that this
will spread to other countries."
Kurian Kuriakose, chairman of the Doha-based Morison Menon
Chartered Accountants, said such incidents would prompt
governments in other Gulf countries to increase spending on job
creation, social safety nets and public projects.
"The events are likely to speed up the participative and inclusive
decision-making by the the government," Kuriakose said in an
e-mail response to IANS from Doha and took the example of Qatar.
He said the Qatari government had started taking proactive
measures to create more jobs for citizens by focusing attention to
the development of small and medium enterprises and increasing
spending on social programmes, especially education and
"I believe the developments will have maximum impact in countries
where the economy is not doing well or if it is doing well, where
the nationals did not receive the adequate economic
opportunities," Kuriakose said.
"Qatar, perhaps, is economically the most progressive in the
Middle East and have a very low number of around 300,000 citizens.
Most citizens are well to do," Kuriakose said.
"There are also relatively lower number of citizens who have not
been able to create a good living condition for themselves in the
country. For this reason, I believe, there is minimal impact of
these events on Qatar."
Keeping in view the popular uprisings in the region, Saudi Arabia
now has substantially increased its social security budget and
boosted its spending on housing by nearly $11 billion in a bid to
create more jobs.
Kuriakose said increased social spending will provide a cushion
against any possible revolt in these countries.
"What happens is the Middle East also effects the entire world,"
said Suliman S. Al Othaim, chairman of Suliman Alothiam Jewellery
"So obviously it is big concern for the people in the Gulf
region", he added.
(Gyanendra Kumar Keshri can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)