GCC states plan to conduct joint census


Demographic officials from the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) discussed the plan during two days of talks in Muscat and said arrangements were already under way to embark on the scheme in 2010 despite their preoccupation with the repercussions of the global financial crisis.

"We are pursuing plans to conduct the first joint census to be carried in one month," said Sheikh Al Fadl bin Ahmed Al Harithi, Undersecretary of the Omani Ministry of National Economy.

"The results of this project will certainly serve economic development in member states and will have a significant role in developing the infrastructure of statistics systems in the GCC… this project and the planned common statistics strategy will constitute a new phase of GCC integration."

Al Harithi gave no timetable for the census but sources at the Riyadh-based GCC Secretariat said it could be carried out in the first half of 2010. Most GCC nations do not conduct census on a regular basis but they normally publish population estimates through their government departments.

The six countries, which control 45 per cent of the world’s oil and 20 per cent of the global gas deposits, have recorded one of the world’s highest population growth rates over the past three decades because of high birth rates among the natives and a massive influx of foreign workers to the region.

Independent estimates showed expatriates, who began coming to the region in early 1960s, accounted for more than a third of the combined GCC population in 2008 but in some members, they exceeded 80 per cent.

United Nations estimates showed the GCC’s combined population stood at around 38.5 million at the end of 2008, an increase of nearly 1.7 million over 2006, when it was estimated at about 36.8 million.

A breakdown showed Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, remained the largest populated GCC nation, with its population rising by 4.8 per cent from 25.194 million at the end of 2006 to 26.424 million at the end of 2008.

The UAE had the second largest population of 4.865 million at the end of 2008, compared with 4.659 million at the end of 2006, a growth of 4.4 per cent.

Kuwait’s population, the third largest, recorded the highest growth of 5.2 per cent to 2.910 million from 2.765 million during that period. Oman’s population grew by 4.6 per cent to 2.732 million from 2.612 million while that of Qatar increased by 3.3 per cent to 868,000 from 840,000.

Bahrain recorded a growth in its population by around 3.6 per cent to 765,000 from 738,000.

Despite the rapid growth, the combined per capita income of the six members surged by nearly $ 7,000 in 2008 because of high growth in their nominal economies due to a sharp rise in oil prices. The report gave no figures on the GCC’s GDP per capita income but according to independent estimates, it stood at around $ 26,900 in 2008.

The surge in the GDP by around 40 per cent last year was a result of a sharp increase in the group’s oil export earnings, which climbed to their highest level of more than $ 520 billion (Dh1.9 trillion) from about $ 313bn in 2006. A breakdown for 2008 showed Qatar remained by far the wealthiest Arab nation in terms of GDP per capita, which stood at around $ 104,650.

The UAE was second to Qatar, with a per capita of nearly $ 55,960. The per capita stood at about $ 46.900 in Kuwait, $ 26,300 in Bahrain, $ 18,680 in Oman and around $ 17,650 in Saudi Arabia.

GCC countries formed their economic, defence and political alliance in May 1981.

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