Reflections

The Arab Gulf's Tall Task to Transform the Populace

Mar 15, 2019 | 10:00 GMT
Saudi men unfurl a giant Saudi national flag during a ceremony to raise the highest flag in the country in the eastern city of Dammam on June 17, 2008.

Saudi men unfurl a giant Saudi national flag during a ceremony to raise the highest flag in the country in the eastern city of Dammam on June 17, 2008. The 6-by-9-meter flag was raised on a huge flag pole in the eastern coastal city to a height of 60 meters making it the highest flying flag in the state of Saudi Arabia.

(AFP/Getty Images)

Some blessings are also curses -- or so the Gulf Arab states of the Persian Gulf have discovered. Though blessed with vast quantities of hydrocarbons, the countries are cursed with the looming knowledge that the world will not pay ever-higher prices for them. To meet the price of modernity and reform their economies, the Gulf states have embarked upon sweeping national identity projects to transform the tribes and sects of their countries into productive, globally competitive and loyal citizens of sustainable nation-states. But while such plans appear destined for success on paper (or PowerPoint), reality may be a different proposition altogether: A lack of local buy-in may scuttle these ambitious projects to coax citizens into becoming economically productive citizens, leaving a patchwork of half-implemented reforms -- while rumbling nationalism threatens to foment conflict....

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