GULF capitals strive to preserve their Gulf and Arab identities, but when a Gulf citizen walks through his country’s capital, which is crowded with foreign communities, he finds himself an expatriate, a visitor, and feels like a stranger in his own homeland.
He finds that the city’s Gulf and Arab identities have been erased and has become a place of choking density, straining our nerves with its loud noise. Its facilities, services, civic amenities and cleanliness suffer from the burden of overcrowding.
This is the curse of oil, or more precisely, the effects of a rentier state. Gulf intellectuals have for long warned of its negative effects and repercussions on the social structure, on Gulf identity and Arab culture, and repeating it at seminars, conferences, meetings, lectures and analytical and diagnostic researches over a period of four decades. Ali Khalifa Al Kuwari from Qatar, in his numerous books, has shed light on the issue.
Our capitals, which were centres of calm, beauty and peace before the oil boom, became filled with a flood of people who came from countries that suffered from famine and overpopulation.
This uncontrolled flow led to traffic congestion, rise in pollution and many areas looked like slums, putting a heavy burden on infrastructure and on water, electricity and sanitation, and causing a depletion of services such as health, hygiene, municipal affairs, parks and green spaces.
As a result, there has been a decline in quality of life in Gulf societies compared to developed societies, and secondly, Gulf governments have been compelled to spend billions to rebuild infrastructure and services such as streets, tunnels, bridges, water, electricity and sanitation networks and maintain them.
However, the most dangerous phenomenon of this influx into the Gulf is the phenomenon of overcrowding, resulting in chaos and a therat to law and order, which are features seen in backward societies with overpopulation.
At the same time, the pressure on health services has resulted in citizens having to wait a long time to obtain an appointment to meet a consultant or get treatment in a hospital.
This massive migration of low-skilled workers would not have disturbed Gulf demographics had it not been for the arrival of rentier economies. People of influence and favour benefitted from it by investing in urban expansion.
A policy of urban expansion, and the heavy labour it brings, has led to the transformation of the Gulf capitals into workshops and labour camps and our capitals have lost their beauty, elegance and tranquility. Streets are teeming with cheap vehicles and dismal-looking buses ferrying miserable-looking labourers in the morning and after.
In our Gulf societies, we have become minorities, and in some of them, we have become the smallest minorities.
Rentier states have produced a patriarchal state that relies on a policy of grants, giveaways and honours, and a social culture based on the values of pride, lineage and ostentation, and behaviours characterised by a passion for luxury and the acquisition of the most high-profile brands, especially among the younger generation and womens
The problem of becoming a minority in one’s own state is that it reduces their productive role as the main workforce on which the economies of the Gulf states are based, and it affects the historical, interdependent relationship between the Gulf state and its society, and also the citizens’ ability to influence decision-makers.
The demographic imbalance in the Gulf is an abnormal situation that is unparalleled in the societies of the contemporary world. Citizens no longer constitute the predominant mainstream and do not have the numerical majority, as their percentages range from 10 at a minimum to a maximum of 60, and do not reach a two-thirds majority in any Gulf country. This is an anomaly or exception in countries of the world.
What are the consequences of citizens not constituting the mainstream in their homelands?
First,weakening the influence of citizens on decision makers on public issues, whether with regard to internal or external matters. This leads to the marginalisation of their political participation.
Secondly,it leads to the lack of a common collective culture that guards general social behaviour, since the communities residing in the Gulf have their own culture, languages, customs, traditions, values and behavioral standards, and concerns associated with the motherland.
This cultural separation makes general social control weak and the cries of preserving the Gulf identity and the Arabic language are blown away in the wind.
Third, weakening the role of advocates for change and reform and weakening their demands in all fields: political, economic, social, legislative, judicial and administrative, and even in the areas of confronting the phenomena of corruption, mismanagement, idleness, poor productivity, etc.
Fourth,the diminishing role of the national workforce in productive activity, due to the increasing dependence of citizens on the rentier state that swallowed up society and promoted patriarchy through the policy of grace and honour, as well as increasing dependence on the state, the private sector and citizens on the incoming workforce in all Gulf life activities, and to maximise private interests and at the expense of the public interest.
Fifth,the deterioration of quality of life in Gulf capitals, due to the intense human demand for public services and facilities, and the inability of the authorities to keep pace with the rising demand, as well as the high rates of pollution in all its forms in the Gulf space.
Finally: This aggravating demographic imbalance has become a heavy burden that continuously depletes the resources and energies of the Gulf states.
It has become entrenched in the Gulf social structure and has turned into something like a ticking time bomb that is difficult to get rid of if the situation continues and becomes complicated, and no firm and decisive Gulf decision has been taken regarding it. The rest is only talk.
What is the solution?
God does not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves, and the solution begins with two words: will, which must be decisive, and management, which must be firm.
The goal will not be realised unless there is a real conviction among our governments to restore respect to the national community. There must be a national strategic plan over a 10-year period, the most important pillars of which are:
1 – Strengthening the national workforce and raising its productivity in all developmental areas. The renaissance and progress of nations depend on the extent of the contribution of their citizens in all fields of development. Our governments must take the policies to increase the contribution of their citizens in the workforce, whether in the government or private sectors.
2 – Encouraging female citizens to increase their participation in economic activity and overcoming all obstacles that limit their activity.
3 – Naturalisation of children of female citizens, born in the Gulf, and work to integrate them into the society.
4 – Raising the Gulf retirement age to 70. We are societies that suffer from a scarcity of national workforce as well as national competencies.
5- Gradually, reduce dependence on foreign labour and abolish the sponsorship system.
6- Reforming the private sector by supporting its independence and freedom to become an efficient development partner for our governments in carrying the burdens of development, moving economic life and creating job opportunities for our youth and our generations, as is the case in developed countries.
7 – Diversifying sources of income. The government is a bad dealer, and it will remain dependent on a single source of income, due to its historical habit and the bureaucratic mentality that runs its economic activity, and the economic path will not diversify despite its repeated promises over past decades. So, this diversification should be one of the main tasks of private sector companies in the region.
8 – Reducing and rationalising public spending: Our responsibilities for the independence of our generations require an end to waste and depletion of resources in projects that do not add real economic value, as well as abandoning the policy of grants and favours, and changing the culture of pride in calculations and lineages and bragging about appearances. This is a national, religious, moral and humanitarian responsibility.