UAE Leads Gulf Common Market Integration Efforts as Announced by GCC General Secretariat Report

WAM Abu Dhabi, 19 March 2013 (WAM): The GCC Secretariat recently issued its fifth annual statistical report The GCC Common Market’s facts and figures. The report featured issues of GCC citizens that relate to the Gulf Common Market (GCM), such as residency, equality in the public and private spheres, protection and insurance, education, and health.

Commenting on the report, Obaid Humaid Al Tayer, Minister of State for Financial Affairs, praised the considerable efforts made by the Secretariat in order to establish the necessary logistical requirements to support the commitment of all related parties in implementing the decisions of the Supreme Council, and to ensure the maximum benefit possible for the GCC citizens.

The report highlighted the GCC states’ commitment to achieve equality of treatment within the GCC for citizens’ movement and residence, by allowing them to move between counties using their personal IDs. This is important in promoting common commercial relations and in consolidating social interdependence. In fact, the statistics of the General Secretariat showed that citizens who moved within the GCC countries in 2011 exceeded 13 million.

Furthermore, the report revealed the decisions of the Supreme Council to grant full equality for GCC citizens regarding their employment in government sectors, social insurance, and pension plans as well the exclusion of any restrictions preventing this positive step. The report showed the presence of 17,000 citizens working in the public sector in other Member States in the year 2011, whereby the UAE received more than 4000 of them, a ratio of 24% on a GCC level. As for those employed in the private sector in the other Member States, the number of GCC employees amounted to 24,000 in the year 2011 with a total of 1,230 employees in the UAE.

The statistics have also shown that the number of beneficiaries of the equalized pension systems in other Member States reached 9,140 citizens by the end of the year 2011, where the UAE presented these plans to 4,012 GCC nationals, a ratio of 44 %. Furthermore, with regards to social insurance systems, 6,069 citizens received them during 2011 with 1,230 citizens in the UAE alone, a ratio of 20%.

Al Tayer added: “The Ministry of Finance is committed to following up on the progress of the Gulf Common Market activities in the UAE to enable the provision of all functional services and insurance for GCC citizens working in both public and private sectors, which in turn will help achieving the full implementation of all decisions passed in this regard.” As for the education sector, the report revealed that the number of students from the GCC receiving an education in other Member States amounted for 16,696 students at the elementary level, 12,777 students in middle school along with 8,529 students in the secondary level in 2011. In addition, with regards to the higher education sector, statistics showed that the number of students enrolled in institutions of higher education in other Member States reached 6,107 in 2011.

The report also revealed statistics regarding property ownership which indicated that GCC ownership in other Member States amounted to 93,767 registered cases by the end of 2011 compared to 77,804 cases in 2010.

The UAE was ranked first in attracting GCC nationals to own land during the year 2011, with the number of real estate ownership reaching to 10,873; a ratio of 67.5% on the GCC level. Until 2011, the cumulative number of GCC, non- Emirati ownership in the UAE reached 44,902.

“The UAE has set itself apart by solid infrastructure facilities and its commitment to treating GCC individuals and entities equally without any form of discrimination. This has placed the UAE at the forefront in terms of applying GCM-related efforts and in the areas of real estate ownership particularly,” he added.

With regard to economic, investment and service activities, the Supreme Council’s wise decisions provided an opportunity for the GCC citizens to obtain licenses to practice economic activities in the other GCC countries, where the cumulative number of such licenses reached 34,428 licenses until 2011. The UAE is considered to be the GCC’s leading donor country for such licenses until 2011, reaching 28,909 licenses, or 84%. In addition, statistics indicate that the UAE’s commercial banks are the most prevalent in the GCC up to 2011, where their branches make up approximately 27% of GCC bank branches in other Member States.

Following the decision of the Supreme Council at its seventh session, GCC investors are allowed to obtain loans from banks and industrial development funds of Member States. The value of those loans reached USD 1.4 billion by the end of the year 2011.

In areas of trading and buying stocks and the establishment of joint stock companies, the number of companies that have permission to trade their stocks for GCC nationals amounted to 661 joint-stock companies in 2011, with a capital up to about USD 220 billion. The UAE topped GCC states for attracting shareholders from the Gulf, which reached 212,243 contributors with a rate of 46.5% of the total equity.

Al Tayer reiterated that the UAE has all the elements to attract investments from around the world, given its adoption of global economic and investment practices, and the bilateral trade agreements signed by the UAE that enables it to be one of the most prominent investment destinations on the international and regional levels especially across Gulf investments.

With regard to inter-GCC trade, the Gulf Free Trade Zone and r the GCC Customs Union regulations and policies adopted in this area have had the prominent role in promoting the smooth movement of goods and services and transportation between Member States. In addition, it helped promote national products and activate the role of the private sector in the development of the exports of the GCC countries, which was evident through the large volume of bilateral trade of USD 6 billion in 1984 compared to over USD 85 billion in 2011.

This has amounted led to a rise in intraregional exports from the UAE to the rest of the GCC, which was registered at USD 9,626.2 dollars in 2011 with a growth rate of 9% for exports in 2010, while the value of imports reached US 7,575.7 billion dollars in 2011, an increase of 26% from 2010.

As for the unified Gulf standard specifications, the GCC Standardisation Organisation works towards preparing, adopting and publishing the unified GCC standards for goods and products, where it managed until 2011 to put 6,510 specs and a unified and supported Gulf list.

Al Tayer concluded saying: “The Ministry of Finance will spare no efforts in taking all the steps that will enhance and deepen Gulf economic integration in an effort to improve the GCC common market to achieve what serves the interests of the GCC countries and their citizens.” WAM/TF