GCC foreign ministers pledge SR75 billion aid to Oman and Bahrain
By GHAZANFAR ALI KHAN I ARAB NEWS
Published: Mar 11, 2011 01:04 Updated: Mar 11, 2011 01:40
RIYADH: In a major move to calm anti-government protests in Oman and Bahrain, the foreign ministers of the six nations in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) approved an SR75-billion aid package to create jobs and implement a range of development projects in the two Gulf states.
"The funds will be allocated for development projects over the next 10 years in the Gulf states," said Foreign Minister of the UAE Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al-Nahyan.
The announcement was made after a meeting of the Gulf foreign ministers hurriedly convened at the GCC General Secretariat here on Thursday. The meeting was attended by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.
"The aid package will be divided equally between the two Gulf states—Bahrain and Oman," said Al-Nahyan.
The package will be used to generate jobs for the young population, who have been complaining that their governments are not doing enough for them.
"The aid will also be utilized for housing and infrastructure projects," said Bahraini Foreign Minister Sheikh Khaled Bin Ahmed Al-Khalifa. He said that the funds will help to improve the living standards of poorer citizens in the two countries.
The announcement of the aid package is significant keeping in view the growing political unrest in the two Gulf countries in particular and across the Arab world in general, which has also deterred investors and sent the Bloomberg Index of Gulf shares down 6.6 percent so far this year. Bahrain and Oman are small non-OPEC oil producers and need higher oil prices to replenish their government finances.
Of late, three Gulf states — Kuwait, Bahrain and Oman — have also allocated new funds, grants and social benefits or promised new jobs and raised wages.
The GCC foreign ministers in their meeting also discussed the situation in Libya, which is worsening day by day. This was the second such meeting of foreign ministers this week, that comes amid international uncertainty over whether to impose a no-fly zone over Libya where Libyan forces are battling rebel fighters for control of key towns.