Regional Economic Development Finally Comes to the Middle East

A summit of ministers in Israel from Egypt, Morocco, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates signals new regional economic development in the Middle East.

David Ben Horin                

Regional economic development let's the genie out of the bottle.

While I write these words in my Afula office, an Arab is upgrading our internet. He comes from the neighboring village of a Druze Muslim who was murdered by an ISIS terrorist while serving in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).

About 100 miles south of where I am sitting, the foreign ministers of Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, the United States and Israel are meeting for a regional summit at the home of Israel's founding father David Ben Gurion.

Twenty years ago, these words would be considered a fairy tale. Much like twenty years ago the implosion of the BRIC nations would be considered a fairy tale.

How BRIC is BROKEN

Chinese stocks are 13% off their recent highs, bouncing off a low where they were 33% down. They are recovering from a bear market led by imploding builders such as China Evergrande Group, bad loans, rising commodity prices, and a regulatory system so unregulated they have been deemed "uninvestable" by the rest of the world.

Their government orchestrated $661 billion wipeout of Alibaba has spooked investors.

Russia has been suffocated by sanctions. Their entire financial system has been frozen by the west as they dedicate the lions share of their resources to swallowing up Ukraine.

As we speak, Russian elites are being smuggled out of the country as their assets are transferred elsewhere.

Dare to Dream?

The distance from Abu Dhabi to Cairo is 3,000 kilometers. That's two thirds the distance from New York to Los Angeles.

Along the way stand Saudi Arabia, Israel, Bahrain, and Jordan. Unlike BRIC, separated by multiple oceans, this region is one land mass. You can drive to and from any country.

Free trade agreements are in the process of being signed between Israel, the UAE, and Morocco.

This region has a combined GDP of roughly $2 trillion.

Strong Forces Build Momentum for Regional Economic Development

There are several forces at play which might make this new region a reality:

  1. Iran. The stronger Iran gets through rising energy prices, possible sanctions relief, and an American need for a new source of oil, the more spooked Arab nations become. The more they perceive Israel as a new ally.

  2. America. The United States has abandoned the Arab world for Iran. For 70 years they were the military protector of Saudi Arabia. Thirty years ago they went to war over Kuwaiti oil.

Those days are gone. The only military power that has the strength and determination to stand up to Iran . . . is Israel.

The Arab's new knight in shining armor no longer bears the stars and stripes. It has a Star of David.

The price for American protection was massive Saudi investment into the US economy. Our price might be a similar level of economic integration.

  1. Each other. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are fierce economic competitors. Slowly, the UAE is rapidly catching up to Saudi.

If they begin to enjoy a competitive advantage due to their trade with the largest high-tech hub this side of Sunset Boulevard, the Saudis might pursue normalization with the Jewish State just to remain the most relevant player in the Arab World.

Normalization between Saudi Arabia and Israel gives political cover for Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman to join in.

That creates a $2.5 trillion economic region of entrepreneurs, highly educated workers, laborers, financers, and natural resources.

  1. Energy cooperation. To this point, only a select handful of nations have enough oil and natural gas within their borders to make a regional and global impact.

Recent offshore discoveries of the Tamar and Levithan fields in Israel and in the Great Nooros Area in Egypt add two more players to the local energy game.

The war with Russia demands new sources of oil for the western world. As America makes its play for Iranian oil, Europe is pursuing pipelines connecting both Israeli and Egyptian gas to Greece.

Such infrastructure is expensive. Cooperation between these two nations can prove to be lucrative -- especially in the face of rising wheat prices, where bread is a basic staple for the 100 million citizens of Egypt.

Investment Opportunities

The best way to manufacture the new BRIC is with ETFs. There are plenty for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel.

Check out this chart. It's the ETF for the UAE

UAE performance since 2014

You can see two things. One, they are unchanged over 7 years. Two, since the Avraham Accords, they have doubled.

It's the same with the Saudi ETF. From its inception in 2015, it stayed within a range, rising around 7%. Since the agreement, they rose 70%.

Price action, along with Saudi sentiment and the relatively progressive stance of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman imply the Gulf nation will eventually complete our generation's hottest emerging investment region.

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