An unprecedented infrastructure investment boom occurred in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in the first part of the 21st century. Strong public capital spending supported by high energy prices provided governments with an opportunity to accelerate economic diversification and infrastructure investment, lifting economic growth and per-capita incomes. The 2014 collapse in oil prices created an added impetus for a transition to a more sustainable growth model, less dependent on volatile energy markets. Given that GCC governments face a constrained fiscal environment and low domestic energy prices remain in place for consumers, we suggest that policymakers consider a market-based 'negabarrel' program to stimulate energy productivity investment. A 'negabarrel' program on the scale of around USD 100 billion across the GCC implemented over 10 years could incentivize private sector investment, generate around 800,000 to 1.2 million new jobs and increase government revenue, if a robust energy service company (ESCO) market can be established. Implementation programs, such as super-ESCOs, need careful planning, but can deliver substantial economic benefits and employment opportunities for GCC citizens in the area of energy auditing and management.
China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a call for an open and inclusive model of cooperative economic, political and cultural exchange that draws on the deep-seated meanings of the ancient Silk Roads. While it reflects China’s rise as a global power, and its industrial redeployment, increased outward investment and need to diversify energy sources and routes, the BRI involves the establishment of a framework for open cooperation and new multilateral financial instruments designed to lay the infrastructural and industrial foundations to secure and solidify China’s relations with countries along the Silk Roads and to extend the march of modernization and poverty reduction to emerging countries.