Bailout fund weighed

Gulf Arab officials are considering setting up a fund that would help Bahrain and Oman deal with some of the economic issues that have helped stoke unrest in those two countries, an official with the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council said Sunday.

CAIRO, Egypt — Gulf Arab officials are considering setting up a fund that would help Bahrain and Oman deal with some of the economic issues that have helped stoke unrest in those two countries, an official with the six-nation Gulf Co-operation Council said Sunday.

GCC finance ministers had met a day earlier in the Saudi Arabian capital and expectations were that they would announce what officials, ahead of that gathering, had described as a Gulf “Marshall Plan” to help Manama and Muscat.

The plan called for a hefty financial contribution by the four wealthier GCC member states that would target key economic issues such as a housing shortage and unemployment.

The financial boost is seen as pivotal for Bahrain and Oman, whose concurrent protests have brought the unrest that has thrown the Arab world into unprecedented turmoil right to Saudi Arabia’s doorstep.

It also threatens to test the durability of the region’s monarchies, with nascent calls for demonstrations focusing largely on greater accountability by the rulers and a more direct political participation in government by the people.

“The political commitment is there” for such a plan, said John Sfakianakis, chief economist with the Riyadh, Saudi Arabia-based Banque Saudi-Fransi.

Bahrain’s protests are more rooted in sectarian strife, with the Shiite-majority demanding greater rights from the Sunni-minority monarchy.

Oman, meanwhile, is seeing building pressures against the country’s sultan, who has tried to stave off the unrest with a cabinet reshuffle and some financial measures.

But neither country has the wealth of the other oil-rich GCC nations: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

Momentum is building in the region for demonstrations. Calls for protests in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia this week have surfaced, and Riyadh issued a statement outlawing all forms of demonstrations as contrary to Islamic laws and Saudi values. It warned that security forces were authorized to take action against violators.

Unrest in Saudi Arabia is particularly worrisome for many.

The kingdom sits atop the world’s largest proven reserves of conventional crude oil — much of it in the eastern provinces where the country’s minority Shiite population lives. The violence in Libya has already rattled oil markets and even the perception that oil supplies from Saudi Arabia could be disrupted would be enough to send shock waves through global oil markets.

GCC foreign ministers are slated to meet in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi on Monday, with the GCC’s secretary general quoted in Gulf newspapers as saying that the meeting takes on “particular importance” given the unrest in the region.

It appears unlikely that the ministers will make any formal announcement about providing funds for Bahrain and Oman during that gathering, and many experts expect that the steps could take place behind the scenes, without the official framework of a fund or a specific plan.

Analysts said the general hope in the region is that propping up Bahrain and Oman will help the two nations address some of the economic catalysts behind the disquiet and that, in turn, could buy other GCC nations with more time to gradually phase in at least some of the political reforms that are being demanded.

“The money will be allocated,” said Sfakianakis. “It’s a matter of how they will do it and what will the mechanisms be.”

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Alberta vaccine rollout expanding to front-line health-care workers

More than 240,000 eligible health-care workers can begin booking vaccine appointments starting… Continue reading

File photo
The Red Deer Rebels will have three new assistant coaches when the WHL regular season starts on Friday. Brad Flynn (left), will be on the bench alongside fellow assistant Ryan Colville (right) head coach Brent Sutter (middle). (Photo by BYRON HACKETT/Advocate Staff)
Sutter steps down as Red Deer Rebels head coach

Red Deer Rebels Owner, GM and head coach Brent Sutter has stepped… Continue reading

Premier Jason Kenney announced $200 million more money that will benefit seniors living in continuing care on Wednesday. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program expanding

Alberta’s in-school rapid screening test program will expand to as many as… Continue reading

Parents and students learned Tuesday what the coming school year will look like. It's pretty much back to business as usual, said Education Minister Adriana LaGrange. School precautions include frequent cleaning, keeping students in the same groups where possible, planning the school day to allow for physical distancing and staying home when sick. (photography by Chris Schwarz/Government of Alberta)
Alberta’s largest school board says no to United Conservative draft school curriculum

CALGARY — Alberta’s largest school board says it will not use the… Continue reading

Red Deer-South MLA Jason Stephan is among those who have signed an open letter criticizing the government’s return to stricter health measures. (Advocate file photo).
Updated: Kenney tells UCP caucus COVID-19 dissent OK, breaking health rules means expulsion

15 MLAs released letter on Wednesday critical of new health restrictions

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau watches a speaker appear by videoconference during a news conference in Ottawa, Friday, April 9, 2021. Grassroots Liberals have overwhelmingly endorsed a resolution calling on the federal government to develop and implement a universal basic income — despite Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's apparent lack of enthusiasm for the idea. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Trudeau winds up Liberal convention with election campaign-style speech

OTTAWA — Justin Trudeau wound up a three-day Liberal convention Saturday with… Continue reading

Team Canada skip Brendan Bottcher makes a shot against Italy at the Men's World Curling Championships in Calgary, Alta., Tuesday, April 6, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Men’s world curling championship in Calgary in COVID limbo

CALGARY — The men’s world curling championship in Calgary remained suspended Saturday… Continue reading

Pipes intended for construction of the Keystone XL pipeline are shown in Gascoyne, N.D. on Wednesday April 22, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alex Panetta
Non-profit Quebec law centre to aid environmental group targeted by Alberta oil firm

QUEBEC — The Quebec Environmental Law Centre is coming to the aid… Continue reading

Conservative leader Erin O'Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Conservatives cite empathy, relationships as ways to help expand their movement

OTTAWA — Conservatives should show empathy with Black residents who say they’ve… Continue reading

NDP Leader John Horgan celebrates his election win in the British Columbia provincial election in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020. New Democrats are reconvening for the second day of a three-day policy convention as they look to push past the glitches of the virtual event's opening sessions and rally around keynote speaker John Horgan. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
New Democrats reconvene as hiccups, frustrations plague national policy convention

OTTAWA — New Democrats reconvened Saturday for the second day of a… Continue reading

FILE - In this Monday, Oct. 23, 2017 file photo, President Donald Trump speaks during a joint statement with Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington. Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his commitment to the Republican Party — and raise the possibility that someone else will be the GOP's next presidential nominee — in a closed-door speech to donors Saturday night, April 10, 2021. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)
Trump in 2024? He says only that ‘a Republican’ will win

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Former President Donald Trump plans to affirm his… Continue reading

A cruise ship sits docked waiting for passengers to be evacuated in Kingstown, on the eastern Caribbean island of St. Vincent, Friday, April 9, 2021 due to the eruption of La Soufriere volcano. (AP Photo/Orvil Samuel)
Ash-covered St. Vincent braces for more volcanic eruptions

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent — People who ignored an initial warning to evacuate… Continue reading

Owner of 4 Point Taekwondo Kevin Mejia holds a board as organizer and martial artist Kevin Olsen breaks it in Edmonton on Friday, April 9, 2021. One hundred martial artists from around the world, will be breaking a board for an event called "Break for a Breakthrough." The idea is for martial artists to unite and re-engage with the arts because they may have drifted away or lost enthusiasm as a result of the pandemic. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Break for a Breakthrough: Canadian hosts international martial arts demonstration

EDMONTON — Whether he’s breaking a wooden board, a clay tile, cement… Continue reading

Most Read