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GCC Cash Reserves Surge $70 bil.
UAE, Saudi account for lion's share
By Jamal Al Majaida
The meeting of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)

ABU DHABI-A sharp increase in oil prices over the past five years have boosted the combined financial reserves of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) by nearly $70 billion after they plummeted to their lowest level in mid 1990s.

Figures by the World Bank showed the official financial reserves of the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman hit one of their highest levels of around $145.1 billion at the end of 2005 compared with $75.1 billion at the end of 2000.

The bulk of the reserves are controlled by the UAE and Saudi Arabia while the remaining members also reported large increases in their official reserves.

From nearly $14.5 billion at the end of 2000, the UAE's cash reserves soared to a record $23 billion at the end of 2005 while those of Saudi Arabia, the world's oil superpower, jumped from $46.2 billion to $101.1 billion in the same period.

The reserves grew from $8.8 billion to $9.5 billion in Kuwait, from $1.3 billion to 4.9 billion in Qatar, from nearly $2.7 billion to $4.1 billion in Oman and from $1.6 billion to around $1.7 billion in Bahrain, the report showed.

The surge followed a sharp rise in the GCC's oil export revenues because of higher production and a sharp increase in crude prices, which averaged around $52 a barrel in 2005 compared with $36 in 2004 and $25 in the previous three years.

According to the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), the GCC's combined oil revenues climbed to one of their highest levels of around $252 billion in 2005 from nearly $115 billion in 2000. The revenues are expected to climb further to a record $300 billion this year as crude prices are projected to average above $60 a barrel and member states are pumping at near capacity.

A sharp decline in oil prices in mid 1990s allied with heavy payments for the liberation of Kuwait in 1991 depressed the GCC's financial reserves to one of their lowest levels of less than $30 billion. Saudi Arabia was the main victim as its financial reserves tumbled to only around $five billion at the end of 1995.






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