Despite the gloomy global outlook, Gulf economies will continue to grow in 2009 and push forward with most of their current projects and reforms. The oil surpluses will enable the region to continue with investment programmes at home and abroad, and offer to negotiate better deals in contracts and materials. The regional sovereign wealth funds will redirect part of their investment in the area to support national efforts to weather the crisis.

Some will argue that the GCC is too heterogeneous – in terms of size, GDP, economic structure, revenues or the policies of its members – to be seen as a unified market. Furthermore, the GCC is not a supranational structure, so it has little power and influence. This is true to a certain extent but the member countries – Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and the UAE – are individually committed to further regional and international integration, and as a group are resolute to act as a new global economic player.

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On the GCC front, the financial crisis has enabled the Monetary Union, once on the verge of postponement, to push forward, therefore driving regional integration further. On the global front, the renewed interest in the once suspiciously contemplated regional sovereign wealth funds, and renewed calls for a EU-GCC free trade agreement are accelerating the globalisation process of their economies. After all, the recent visits of world leaders to the region, including UK prime minister Gordon Brown, are a just recognition of a rich yet global partner and stabilising element of a world in turmoil.

Sébastien Delasnerie, a former journalist and director at the Invest in France agency, advises governments on branding and image in international markets.

E-mail: sdelasnerie@googlemail.com