MEED 2009-2015 infographic

MEED 2009-2015 infographic

MEED 2009-2015 infographic

 

For almost six years, from 2003-08, a wave of liquidity washed over the Middle East, created by high oil prices, record levels of oil production and the global credit boom.

Across the GCC, investors and governments ploughed money into huge real estate, infrastructure, petrochemicals and other industrial developments. Dubai, in particular, borrowed heavily to drive a real estate boom that, at its peak, accounted for 65 per cent of the entire GCC projects market.

But what goes up must come down, and the global financial crisis of 2008 brought the GCC real estate boom to a juddering halt in 2009 as liquidity dried up. Dubai teetered on bankruptcy and a slump in oil prices saw the region slip into recession.

The Middle East entered a dark new period in December 2010, when Tunisian fruit seller Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight in the town of Sidi Bouzid, consumed with anger at the harshness of his treatment by the authorities. Bouazizi’s death in January 2011 triggered an uprising in Tunisia that spread across the region and toppled entrenched regimes in Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen and Libya.

Initially celebrated as a revolution that had brought an end to decades of authoritarian dictatorships, the uprisings became known as the Arab Spring. But it soon became clear that their primary achievement was to remove the shackles on previously suppressed Islamist political parties, such as Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood, and create fertile recruitment grounds for extremist groups including Al-Qaeda and Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

In 2012, the Muslim Brotherhood won Egypt’s presidential election and Mohammed Mursi became president. Islamic groups waged war against the governments of Syria, Iraq and each other. A coup to remove Mursi ultimately established former army head Abdul Fattah al-Sisi as Egypt’s president and a crackdown on opposition began. Syria, meanwhile, continued to disintegrate.

In the GCC, however, the good times had returned. The fear of oil shortages due to turmoil in markets such as Libya and Iraq fuelled a strong recovery in demand. From 2011, record surpluses enabled GCC oil producers to continue spending heavily on huge infrastructure projects. But far away, the surge in oil prices was also providing a boon for US oil shale producers.