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Fearing the Looming "Oil Crisis" - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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The term “oil crisis” usually means a spike in the price of oil, but as oil-producing nations reliant on this revenue, an oil crisis for us comes with a fall in the price of oil.

This decline in oil prices which we see today is alarming, and the speed of this decline has come as a surprise to everyone, including the most pessimistic. Who could’ve imagined that the price of a barrel of oil would go back down to $50 after it had reached almost $150 just a short time ago? And this must convince us that the impossible can happen; that it is not impossible that we could sell the barrel for only 20 dollars. Despite such a catastrophic prospect we should not panic, for perhaps it is a blessing in disguise.

Its shocking that our hopes for a decade of prosperity is now in jeopardy, which is something that many fear, yet if we have learnt anything from our modern history we know this is not true. Hopefully, we’ve learned something from the first oil crisis of 1980s, which is not to hold our collective breaths waiting for the price of oil to go back up, since it took twenty years the last time around for it to rebound.

This crisis is in fact a blessing in disguise, it is akin to an internal alarm telling us that we should rely on ourselves and our own intelligence, and take this opportunity to reform. We can accomplish a lot with a little money and reach the same desired result. We do not need $100 dollars per barrel to reform our education. Teaching our students more Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics, does not require one additional dollar, yet this will achieve more than our current education system does even if we were to shower it with an additional $100 million. A poor educational system will produce a weak society.

The price of oil falling to $20 dollars a barrel will not hinder us from reforming our education system; and by doing so we will discover that success and prosperity can achieved with just a quarter of pervious oil revenues. It is upgrading the standards of our educational curricula, teaching practices and schools, which will give all of society an intellectual prosperity and a permanent self-reliance not tied to the price of oil. For I am more and more convinced that we will not advance without further developing the educational systems in the Arab world, which nobody can deny is amongst the most backwards in the world today.

With $20 per barrel of oil, we will urgently need to reform governmental bureaucracy because it stands in the way of development, by wasting time, money and effort. Administrative reform will make the governments fairer, stronger, richer, and more successful.

With the price of oil falling to $20 per barrel our governments ability to contain unemployment will no longer be a viable option, and it will have no other choice but to encourage employment by giving priority to its citizens, no matter how harsh and unpopular these measures are. At $20 per barrel, it will no longer be acceptable to have a high unemployment rate amongst our citizens, while also increasing the number of expatriate workers.

These facts do not apply only to the scenario of the $ 20-a-barrel. They are imperative for all scenarios at all times, in prosperity as in hardships. We should not panic about oil prices no matter how far they fall, for this will be the indispensable beacon to reform.

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed

Abdulrahman Al-Rashed is the former general manager of Al-Arabiya television. He is also the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat, and the leading Arabic weekly magazine Al-Majalla. He is also a senior columnist in the daily newspapers Al-Madina and Al-Bilad. He has a US post-graduate degree in mass communications, and has been a guest on many TV current affairs programs. He is currently based in Dubai.

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