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Negative Effects of Globalization on Gulf Region

Negative Effects of Globalization on Gulf Region


The Gulf region is a highly segregated and multicultural region owing to the fact that people who live this area are often segregated based on gender, religion, ethnicity and social class. Another important aspect of the Gulf region is that foreign labor force comprises at least 50% of the native population (Donn & Al Manthri, 2010). It is also worth noting that majority of the skilled and educated personnel working in education, business and management domains come from Western countries whereas workers of Asian origin are mostly blue collar, domestic servants and low-paid workers. Nevertheless, it is essential to note that the citizens of Gulf region are privy to some privileges not enjoyed by foreign workers (Donn & Al Manthri, 2010). Even with the proliferation of Western cultures in a world that is constantly shrinking, Persian Gulf countries still place emphasis on Islamic values and local traditions. According to Mohammadi (2012), Gulf countries are still in a transition stage towards modernity, which is only evident in the domain of material culture and infrastructure and not the local culture and traditions. In the context of the Gulf States, importance is placed on cultural traditions. In this respect, such aspects of modern world as globalization are often resented in the countries of the Gulf region. Mohammadi (2012) points out that globalization is usually considered a Western ideology and a form of cultural invasion in the countries of the Persian Gulf. Globalization denotes a phenomenon that results from economic integration, innovation, societal progress and technological advancement, which results in increased interaction between different economies, facilitated by ease of cross-border capital relocation and trade. This paper argues that globalization had some negative consequences for the countries of the Gulf region. Globalization poses a risk and brings about economic, political and social challenges for Gulf States. Such point of view is fresh and alive in the Gulf region.

Globalization Is a Threat to the Arab Cultural Identity

Globalization results in the identity crisis of the Arab culture. The degree to which globalization may influence the Arab cultural identity is an issue of concern in the Gulf region. It is worth noting that creating a new world order in terms of culture is a completely different aspect from the new order that draws upon economic integration facilitated by agreements between participating governments with respect to the regulations and rules (El-Shibiny, 2005). The complexity of culture exceeds that of economic integration, owing to the fact that it is related to moral attitudes, ethical values, customs, religious beliefs and values, languages and traditions. According to El-Shibiny (2005), every society, whether pastoral or nomadic, rural or industrial, underdeveloped or developed, poor or rich, has its unique sociocultural system that is deeply and historically rooted in the behavior and lives of people in a particular society. According to anthropologists, culture has a significant impact on the distinctive identities of people, which explains why every nation has pride in its culture and strives to ensure that its identity is preserved (Hills & Atkins, 2013). Globalization results in cultural clashes between countries. This, in turn, leads to an identity crisis. As a result, it is worth noting that cultural globalization requires a somewhat different approach from the economic globalization (El-Shibiny, 2005). It is essential to note that cultures differ between countries. Even in cases whereby countries share the same history, beliefs, traditions, ethical values and language, cultural differences and similarities exist nonetheless. Therefore, regarding globalization, any particular culture must be viewed as a distinctive object (Mohammadi, 2012). Even in Arab countries, their culture is not homogeneous despite the fact that these countries, to a large degree, have some common features. There is no doubt that Arab Gulf countries have similar traditions, customs, ethical values, religious beliefs and language. Nevertheless, they differ in terms of ethical norms, lifestyles, customs and habits (El-Shibiny, 2005).

In essence, a particular culture denotes the genius of thoughts of people that belong to that particular culture, their geographic location, and time (El-Shibiny, 2005). Simply stated, culture is attributed to the historical accumulation of various aspects associated with its people, such as ethical values, beliefs, customs, social behavior and means of expressing oneself, aspirations and creative thinking. Some anthropologists are of the view that the development of culture stems from modernization and innovation in literature, technology, arts and science. Based on this view, an attempt to globalize cultures through development of global regulations, rules, systems and policies for all of the countries to abide by as is the case in other domains such as banking, airspace, maritime, trade and banking among others, might have negative ramifications for the local cultural identities that countries are trying to preserve (Mohammadi, 2012). In the context of the GCC region, local intellectuals have expressed concerns that globalization will result in dominance of the Western culture at the expense of their local cultures (El-Shibiny, 2005). Arab intellectuals are not opposed to the idea of cultural integration by itself; instead, they do not agree with the hegemony of one culture over other cultures. In this way, globalization poses a threat to the identity of people in the GCC countries, which further threatens the ability of the Gulf countries to preserve their beliefs and traditions and to develop their ethical norms and native values. As Hills and Atkins (2013) explained, globalization undermines the social values,languages, beliefs, religions and history of countries in the Gulf region.

In the Arab world, concerns have been raised that globalization has shifted from the idea of cultural pluralism to that of cultural homogeneity. As a result, globalization is often seen as an attempt aimed at “Americanizing the world” (El-Shibiny, 2005, p. 39). Many Arab authors are disturbed by the idea of the West, and the USA in particular, playing a role of “world policeman” under the disguise of globalization. In the GCC countries, resistance to globalization stems from the fact that it is perceived as a new type of Western cultural, economic and political imperialism that is aimed at dominating non-Western countries. Because globalization is linked to the imposition of Western culture, it fails to tolerate multiculturalism and pluralism, which will result in clashes with Arab countries. Some authors argue that the rise of terrorist movements in the Arab world can be attributed to the anti-globalization sentiments in the region, which perceives globalization as a threat to the sovereignty of the region and a threat to the long-established native traditions and culture (Mohammadi, 2012). The specific fear expressed of the Gulf region countries and some other Arab countries, is that globalization might lead to secularism and separation of religion from state. This is likely to result is a significant conflict with Islamic principles, which are based on a dynamic relationship between religious and secular institutions. The threat of globalization on the Gulf region culture is already being felt with the proliferation of modern technologies, the Internet and the television. El-Shibiny (2005) argues that cultural globalization, by far, is the highest level of cultural submission and hegemony. The author links globalization to cultural abuse that threatens the Arab culture, and violates Arab cultures’ independence and sovereignty.

Globalization Leads to the Exploitation of Resources in the Gulf by Other Countries

Apart from the negative consequences associated with cultural domination, another negative effect of globalization on the Gulf region relates to its uneven distribution of benefits. According to Ozdemir (2008), there are significant equity problems with respect to the allocation of globalization gains among regions, countries, institutions and individuals. In particular, prosperous countries and individuals are the biggest beneficiaries of globalization, which is further widening the gap between the poor and the rich. This results in larger inequalities and increasing conflicts within the globalized countries as well as between them. Ozdemir (2008) pointed out that, less than 25% of the global population has exploited more than 75% of the entire world resources because of globalization. The Gulf region is a perfect example of a region that has been exploited because of globalization.

Although the Gulf States are limited in terms of the services and commodities that they export, the region is well-integrated into the global economy. Despite exporting primarily crude oil, Gulf States import significant amounts of consumer goods, capital goods and machinery, which has played a significant role in increasing their share of foreign trade. The openness ratio, which is an indicator of economic globalization, for the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states is about 78 percent, which implies that countries in the region are opening up their markets for international investors. In this respect, globalization is not only attracting trading investors, but is also increasing migration of labor force. In the GCC, about 72 percent of the labor force comprises of migrant workers (Donn & Al Manthri, 2010). Despite the fact that GCC countries are well integrated in the global economy, they have not been able to document significant economic gains as a result of this economic integration. This suggests that, by opening up their markets, these countries are being exploited because of their vast natural resources, especially oil and natural gas. For instance, during the 1970s, after the surge of oil prices on the global market, countries in the Gulf region reaped economic benefits as evidenced by the subsequent economic growth (Milanovic, 2012). Nevertheless, these countries were unable to sustain the unprecedented economic growth as illustrated by the stagnating Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the subsequent decades. Of note is the observation that the economic growth in Gulf countries goes hand in hand with the global prices of oil and not any other aspect, such as being integrated into the world economy. This raises concerns regarding the economic benefits of economic globalization. The underlying observation is that, although Gulf countries have adopted mechanisms of economic integration, they are yet to document economic benefits from them.

Apart from widening inequality between states, globalization can also widen inequalities between individuals. Ozdemir (2008) points out that globalization spurs rapid changes in income as well as the distribution of income both within a country and between them, which can result in political instability. As expected, globalization offers the urban middle class and the ruling elites a greater portion of the economic pie. When this share increases at an unprecedented rate and the remaining portion of the pie is controlled or restricted because of corruption and monopolies, there is a possibility of government failing to retain its legitimacy (Sassen, 2013). In fact, rising income inequality has been cited as one of the factors that contributed to the Arab Spring witnessed in the larger Arab world. With respect to the unequal distribution between states, it is evident that foreign direct investment (FDI) is concentrated only in a few countries, with the Gulf countries accountiing only 1.47% of total global FDI. From this observation, it can be argued that globalization tends to widen the income gap between countries, and developing countries in the Gulf region are the ones that are adversely affected. It can also be inferred that globalization is only benefitting rich countries while leaving developing nations lagging behind.

Globalization Threatens the Sovereignty of Gulf States

Another negative consequence of globalization in the Gulf region is the threat it has on the sovereignty of the countries in the Gulf region (Sassen, 2013). With the onset of globalization, the control of the economy is shifting from national governments to other entities in the global economic system such as other powerful states, global firms, and other global organizations. In the Gulf region, and by extension, the Arab world, there is a widespread perception that the sovereignty of the state is under threat by the factors that drive globalization (Ozdemir, 2008). As a result, national leaders have expressed concerns that they are not in a position to control these international influences. This can lead to hostility from citizens as evidenced by cases of xenophobia and extreme nationalism together with rise of fundamentalist and extremist political movements, which eventually results in political conflicts (Ozdemir, 2008). Significant political events such as the Arab Spring and civil unrests in the Gulf States can be linked to sentiments against globalization. Overall, it can be argued that globalization accounts for the terror, violence and extremism witnessed in the Arab world because it displaces individuals from their cultural roots and results in a psychosocial distress that is manifested through opposing globalization.

Globalization Increases Unemployment for Gulf Citizens

Unemployment is another negative effect that globalization has on the Gulf region. Globalization has worsened the employment situation in the Gulf region due to labor migration. According to Ozdemir (2008), the influx of foreign workers is having a negative effect with respect to the employment prospects of nationals of the Gulf States. During the 1970s, the surge in global prices of oil led to initiation of mega development projects by Gulf region leaders. Successful implementation of these plans required hiring overseas workers since education in the region was not high enough to meet the human resources demands for these projects (Banerjee & Goldfield, 2007). The outcome was that foreigners formed a majority of the labor force in the region, about 72 percent, with most of them working in management and skilled positions leaving nationals only low-paying and unskilled jobs. This contributed to increase of unemployment in the region from the 1990s (Donn & Al Manthri, 2010). In other words, globalization resulted in an influx of foreign workers, which is hurting local labor force. Despite the fact that the population of the Gulf region is relatively young, unemployment is expected to be a major challenge for the region in future.



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Despite the negative consequences of globalization on the Gulf region, positive impacts have been present as well. Those who argue that globalization is beneficial to the Gulf countries maintain that it has resulted in a significant growth in terms of capital flows, investment flows and global trade (Chauffour, 2012). As a result, globalization has initiated economic changes through opening of economic policies. Through globalization, Gulf countries are accessing export markets across the globe and eliminating trade barriers (Chauffour, 2012). However, although Gulf countries have set up measures to integrate their economies within the global economy, the tangible benefits of economic integration are yet to be documented. Unemployment is rising and GDP has been stagnant, which suggests that economic policies are not always beneficial for the Gulf countries.

Another benefit of globalization in the Gulf region involves the radical transformation of the region into a new cultural and social era. In the course of the last 20 years, transformation has been witnessed in the societies of the Gulf region from a traditional society, gradually moving towards modernity characterized by an increase in consumer technology (Roy, 2012). For instance, scenes of mud houses, tents and camels are being replaced with high-rise buildings, television sets, cars, and cement houses – all attributed to the onset of globalization (Roy, 2012). However, this cultural globalization poses a significant threat to the Islamic system of beliefs and values and traditions of the Gulf region. With the progression of globalization, the Arab identities are under threat of being replaced by Western values and beliefs. This cultural transformation has resulted in the polarization of the society in terms of women versus men (women advocating for rights), new money versus old money, Sunni versus Shi’a and desert versus city (El-Shibiny, 2005).


From the discussion, it is evident that globalization has significant impacts on the Gulf region. The first notable negative effect of globalization is the threat it poses to the cultural identity of the citizen of the Gulf region countries. Globalization has also resulted in exploitation of Gulf countries, which has widened inequalities between Gulf countries and other regions. In addition, globalization has increased inequalities between individuals in the Gulf countries, resulting in instabilities. Other negative consequences of globalization in the region include threat to sovereignty and increasing unemployment of Gulf nationals. The underlying observation is that globalization results in considerable social, political and economic changes that result in increasing tensions of the Gulf region societies.

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