DP6639 Economic, Political, and Institutional Prerequisites for Monetary Union Among the Members of the Gulf Cooperation Council

Author(s): Willem H. Buiter
Publication Date: January 2008
Keyword(s): convergence, currency union, exchange rate regime, GCC
JEL(s): E42, E52, E63, F33, F42
Programme Areas: International Macroeconomics
Link to this Page: http://www.cepr.org/pubs/dps/DP6639

The paper reviews the arguments for and against monetary union among the six members of the Gulf Cooperation Council - the United Arab Emirates, the State of Bahrain, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Sultanate of Oman, the State of Qatar and the State of Kuwait. Both technical economic arguments and political economy considerations are discussed I conclude that there is an economic case for GCC monetary union, but that it is not overwhelming. The lack of economic integration among the GCC members is striking. Without anything approaching the free movement of goods, services, capital and persons among the six GCC member countries, the case for monetary union is mainly based on the small size of all GCC members other than Saudi Arabia, and their high degree of openness. Indeed, even without the creation of a monetary union, there could be significant advantages to all GCC members, from both an economic and a security perspective, from greater economic integration, through the creation of a true common market for goods, services, capital and labour, and from deeper political integration. The political arguments against monetary union at this juncture appear overwhelming, however. The absence of effective supranational political institutions encompassing the six GCC members means that there could be no effective political accountability of the GCC central bank. The surrender of political sovereignty inherent in joining a monetary union would therefore not be perceived as legitimate by an increasingly politically sophisticated citizenry. I believe that monetary union among the GCC members will occur only as part of a broad and broadly-based movement towards far-reaching political integration. And there is little evidence of that as yet.