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Karen E. Young

Gulf Arab States Should Make the Most of Oil’s Last Boom

A spike in prices promises one final windfall before the inevitable long-term decline.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Enjoy it while it lasts.

Photographer: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

Oil prices are rebounding thanks to an extended OPEC+ production cut, a surge in demand as economies recover from the coronavirus pandemic, and the beginning of a supply reaction from a year of both diminished production and inventory draw-downs. This is good news for the oil producers of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

But we should resist the temptation to equate this price spike to surges of the past, particularly the so-called “magic decade” between 2003 and 2014. Even at $70 a barrel, the current prices do not meet fiscal break-even thresholds for most Gulf Arab states. The gap between revenue and fiscal expenditure has been so wide since 2015 that the rebound won’t alter the basic fact that governments need to find new sources of revenue.