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Last Updated: Tuesday, 1 January 2008, 06:53 GMT
Gulf states form common market
By Julia Wheeler
BBC News, Dubai

Port of Dubai
Dubai is one of the most prosperous cities in the world
The wealthy six Gulf states have taken a step closer together economically with the formation of a common market.

The Gulf Co-operation Council states, whose wealth is largely based on oil, say the move will give them a stronger negotiating position internationally.

It will also mean their citizens can move freely between the countries for employment and education.

But analysts say it may also fuel inflation and other difficulties in the region's boom cities.

One of the main results of the common market - much talked about and finally decided upon just last month - is expected to be migration.

Migrant workers

The nationals of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now to be seen as equal, economically, whichever country they chose to live in.

Migrant workers in Dubai
Migrant workers play a vital role in the Gulf economy
They will be able to work, buy houses and companies, trade shares, go to school and receive medical treatment in all six states.

But there is concern that migration will put further pressure on the limited housing, infrastructure, education and health services in the countries with higher standards of living like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

In the Emirates for example, inflation is running so high the government has recently given all federal employees a 70% pay increase.

Importantly, the common market will not affect the rights of millions of the Gulf's migrant workers - most from South and East Asia.

They are often subject to very strict employment and residency rules and few are able to change jobs easily.

The weakened US dollar has hit these people and particularly their families back home.

Their hard-earned riyals, dinars and dirhams which are mostly pegged to the dollar, are worth less against their home currencies.

There have been suggestions that migrant workers will soon only be allowed to stay in a Gulf State for a maximum of six years.

If so, there is speculation they may, in the future, be allowed to move around the Gulf common market to find work.

Profile: Gulf Co-operation Council
19 Dec 07 |  Country profiles

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