Attention has focused on its 2010 deadline, with observers questioning whether monetary union could be achieved in this seemingly impossible timeframe. A failure to keep to the timetable casts doubt on its future.

However, the single currency, while a potent symbol of economic union, is less important than the establishment of a common market.

The rules covering the free movement of Gulf nationals to live, work and own property and shares in any GCC state, with the same rights as locals, is now complete. The start of 2008 was declared the official launch date of the GCC common market.

Work has been continuing steadily behind the scenes on the framework for the common market for the past five years, and the final agreement was reached at the GCC’s Doha summit in December. The launch gives the scheme a much-needed push towards laying the foundations for a true GCC economic bloc.

But now the shape of the common market is clear, the scheme must move onto the next phase. The willingness of states to move from political agreement to putting the rules into effect will now be put to the test.

With no deadline for states to implement all the rules, and no penalties at the state level for non-compliance, some GCC members could be found wanting.

As the largest economy in the region, and one of the slowest to agree to the right of all GCC nationals to enter, live and work in the kingdom without passports, permits and visas, Saudi Arabia could be the most significant drag on the project.

The kingdom will have to open up further if the common market is to materialise. After that, a shared currency could become a reality