Gulf leaders eye `Marshall Plan` to quell protests

Gulf Arab oligarchs are readying their own version of a "Marshall Plan" for Oman and Bahrain, seeking to quell the unrest that has come to their doorstep and presented them with their most serious challenge in decades.

Last Updated: Mar 04, 2011, 00:30 AM IST

Cairo: Taking their cue from the US aid effort
for Europe after World War II, Gulf Arab oligarchs are
readying their own version of a "Marshall Plan" for Oman and
Bahrain, seeking to quell the unrest that has come to their
doorstep and presented them with their most serious challenge
in decades.

The plan, to be discussed by the Gulf Cooperation Council
finance ministers on March 5, will include measures to improve
the economic and social conditions in the two countries, the
poorest members of the six-nation regional bloc, according to
GCC officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because
they were not authorised to discuss the details of the plan.

Key to the plan will be the injection of several billion
dollars into Oman and Bahrain`s economies, experts said, with
Gulf leaders looking to cap some of the economic triggers for
the unrest. The hope is that such a move will at least buy
them more time to deal with the broader calls for political
reforms.

"This is a test for the GCC union, and it`s important
that they`re meeting," said John Sfakianakis, chief economist
for the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Banque Saudi Fransi. "It`s
not going to be a meeting just to meet and greet. It`s going
to be a meeting to discuss the dollars and cents and the
actual programs."

Much is at stake for the sheiks, emirs and kings of Saudi
Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

They have watched with growing alarm the wave of protests
sweeping through the Arab world. First Tunisia and Egypt`s
presidents were ousted. Now, Yemen`s president is clutching at
lifelines and Libya`s longtime strongman is locked in a bitter
fight for survival against rebels who have wrenched the
country`s east from his control.

While those protests have served as a wake-up call in the
region, building momentum on the back of decades of political
repression and growing economic disparity, the protests in
Bahrain and Oman are what have truly rattled the other Gulf
royalty.

There also are calls for protests in Kuwait on Tuesday
and Qatar on March 16.

PTI