Gulf policymakers mull impact of world financial crisis

Finance and economy ministers and central bankers from the Arab states in the Gulf met for emergency talks on Saturday to forge a common front to battle the global economic crisis. The policymakers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) met behind closed doors in Saudi Arabia to examine the impact of the crisis on their economies, Qatari Finance Minister Yussef Hussein Kamal said. They will discuss “mechanisms of coordination and cooperation between GCC countries aimed at protecting their economies from the fallout of the world financial crisis,” GCC Secretary General Abdulrahman al-Attiyah said. Stock markets in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have taken a severe battering this month, losing some 200 billion dollars. Fears of a liquidity shortfall have also loomed over Gulf banks because of the global credit crunch, with the banks having limited ability to borrow on the international debt market. Saturday’s gathering in Riyadh came as the Saudi stock market, the largest in the Arab world, opened trading with a sharp drop of more than nine percent to its lowest point in four years. It also comes after OPEC, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, announced on Friday that it will slash oil output by 1.5 million barrels a day from November 1. The talks are also taking place three weeks before the United States hosts an unprecedented summit of the world’s richest nations and emerging economies to discuss the global financial crisis. Saudi King Abdullah will be the only Arab leader to attend the November 15 summit in Washington.