Latest index tracks socio-economic progress of the GCC states

03 December 2018 5 min. read

The UAE has topped yet another developmental rankings table for the Middle East, but what of other members of the GCC, each on their own transformational journeys?

Another month passes and another socio-economic or developmental global index highlights the continued rise of the United Arab Emirates. Dubai tops brand consultancy Bloom's global digital city rankings. The UAE is the world’s third most prepared nation for organisational change according to KPMG.  Dubai and Abu Dhabi improve their ratings in Z/Yen Partners’ financial markets indexMercer analysis shows that Dubai now ranks second globally for the price of blue jeans.

And so it is with the latest in the production line of annual global indices; the British think-tank Legatum Institute’s Legatum Prosperity Index for 2018, which measures roughly 150 countries worldwide on a range of socio-economic living factors such as growth, education, health, the quality of life and general well-being. The United Arab Emirates sits within the top 40 rankings and this year improved its score in more than half of the sub-measures.

As to safety and security, social capital, its business environment, and health and education, the UAE is on the move, with the nation now ranking in the top ten world-wide for health. Crowe senior partner Saad Maniar says the 'vision of the UAE’s rulers and the extraordinary infrastructure’ are driving the rankings reports the Khaleej Times. “Government reforms appear to be boosting sentiment,” adds Mazen Houalla, KPMG Public Sector Advisory Leader.

It’s a familiar story. But with the ambitious national transformation agendas extending to all of the countries of the GCC, how are the other, less media-celebrated member states faring in their social and economic development agendas against international benchmarks according to prosperity indices such as Legatum’s? Well, for starters, while the UAE was touted for its efforts to become a top-ten world-class health provider, Qatar in the category this year quietly moved into the top five on the planet.Is progress being made in the GCC according to the latest prosperity index?Overall, Qatar sits marginally behind the UAE in the aggregated prosperity rankings, in 46th place globally compared to 39th, while Bahrain is a fraction behind in turn at 51st. Kuwait and Oman follow, in 66th and 69th respectively, while Saudi Arabia trails behind in 86th, hampered by several sub-100 rankings across the nine individual parameters. International rankings may be one thing, however, but how have the GCC nations progressed in their actual scores?

Since 2007, Qatar as an example has risen by roughly two points in economic quality sub-index (the measure of economic opportunity, openness, financial sector efficiency etc.), from a score of 71.80 to 73.79. Bahrain has jumped almost six points in the same category (to be the 9th best-placed nation worldwide with a score of 77.36), Oman is up by close to four points (63.81), Saudi Arabia more than two (65.46), while Kuwait has dropped by approximately four points over the period, down to 67.01 – leaving it in 46th place overall.

More broadly, Qatar has in the past decade improved its scores across eight of the nine parameters measured (which as categories altogether further include business environment, governance, education and health, personal freedom, safety & security, social capital, and the natural environment), with the rise in its business environment the stand-out, covering areas such as infrastructure and entrepreneurial support.

Bahrain has improved in six of the pillars, dropping in governance, safety & security and personal freedom, but with significant gains in its business environment and social capital alongside economic quality. Kuwait has also improved in six areas, its largest gains in social capital and the natural environment, but with plunging scores in governance, while a relatively stable Oman has improved over time in five categories; its business environment the most.

Saudi Arabia, the lowest overall ranked GCC state, has behind the UAE improved its overall average score the most – with rises in seven of the nine categories, dropping only in safety & security and natural environment. An improved business environment has been the Kingdom’s biggest highlight, followed by healthy jumps in governance and education. However, KSA lost ground in seven categories over just the past year, slipping nine spots in the overall rankings.

“A nation is prosperous when it has an open economy, an inclusive society with strong institutions and empowered people who are healthy, educated and safe. Safety and security is fundamental to prosperity and the cornerstone on which to build all the pillars of prosperity,” Stephen Brien, director of policy at the Legatum Institute, said. “A nation succeeds when its leaders set and protect national priorities and work with external parties to support and align with a domestic agenda.”