Troubador Life After Oil

Released: 28/08/2020

ISBN: 9781838595029

Format: Hardback

Review this Book

Life After Oil

The Survival Predicament of the Gulf Arab States

by

The Gulf Arab states became rich by accident. Their golden ticket was oil, which has become the lifeblood of their social and economic systems. But they are prone to become a ‘vanishing Eden’, if the oil curse endures further and economic transformation remains a mirage. 


LIFE AFTER OIL highlights the economic vulnerability of the Gulf states after the oil party ends. The region depends heavily on imports financed by petrodollars. So, when demand for oil sinks and prices plummet, or when oil and gas reserves ultimately vanish, their survival will be extremely challenged. 

LIFE AFTER OIL raises the alarm to the impending survival challenges to face the burgeoning Gulf societies in the post-oil era, and tackles the ultimate question: what will the future look like?

Wow I was blown away by how incredible this book is! Not only is it impeccably researched, it is also a (completely not-boring) but compelling and enjoyable read.

I was interested in learning about what the future of the Gulf States would be, but this book also delves into the history and background of the region, as well as showing what other countries (Norway, Venezuela, some SE Asian nations) have done that have worked or not worked (some spectacularly so).

Each area including education, future energy sources, types of labor, environmental concerns, investments, and other things to understand to take care of future generations are presented in a thorough yet interesting way.

While he does not have a magic bullet for an answer to keeping the region wealthy once the oil runs out, he offers so many insights into what needs to be done. His charts and graphs at the end of the book are enlightening, but as he explains them all throughout the book, you do not feel the need to study every one of them in detail to understand what he is saying.

I am inspired to take many of these ideas and apply it to my own state of Alaska, which also has relied on oil, but must also make a leap into sustainable revenue for the future.

Thank you to NetGalley for an advance copy. This is one of my rare 5 star reviews.

by Jennifer Johnson


As an O&G journalist I was really interested to read this perspective on the Middle East and how it will be affected by oil inevitably becoming a thing of the past.

I found the book very well structured. Chapters were thoughtfully arranged and it was an easy read - something not many books on O&G can be accused of. I appreciated the level of depth the author went into on how the Middle East became so dominated by oil and exactly what will be affected by its inevitable decline. The case studies of other countries, Norway for example, was especially interesting as a comparison and the author's explanations were well reasoned and thoughtful.

A very worthwhile read.

by NetGalley review


"The Gulf oil industry's obituary will be written one day, though its demise is not yet on the horizon. The Gulf oil is past middle age. The combined oil reserves are projected to last another 60 years."

Being an ex-Gulf migrant as a child, this book was both a nostalgic, and at the same time, a sobering read on the 'idea' of the Gulf – real and imagined. Well-researched and far-reaching in its analysis of the current state of affairs, this book not only challenges the socio-economic status quo of the oil-rich states, but also provides some answers. I did feel at times though that the author pulls his punches and only skims the surface while critiquing some of the structural issues underpinning the cultural, social and political fabric of Gulf societies.

But overall, this does make a really good read for any one remotely interested in understanding the past and predicting future of a post-oil era.

"We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are."

by NetGalley review


Well structured, well researched, very informative and considered. This is a topic I'm forced to consider professionally and the issue is well flagged. The author has done a very good job in addressing the problems the Gulf Arab States face in replacing oil & gas income and what are currently the uses of oil proceeds, as well as indicating the existential issues the region as a whole is facing. Whilst Dubai has a head start in investing its commodity wealth into infrastructure and looking to draw alternative sources of income into the emirate, it is clear that the region as a whole will not be able to profit in a similar fashion as simply duplicating this process does not seem viable for the region as a whole.

The solution is in overcoming the political resistance to transform both the economies as well as the distribution of oil income, in a timely fashion. As always the path towards this goal is thoroughly unclear. The success of the author's proposal for a successful transition, by turning the issue to the people rather than the current regime, remains in doubt, especially when oil income represents such an important proportion of today's income. Nonetheless, there are several countries across the planet that rely to a significant degree on income derived from the exploitation of commodities that have gotten it right. And several that have gotten it disastrously wrong.

The solution remains elusive, although the author hints upon the similarities between those countries that "got it right". Living in the Netherlands, I'm well aware of the resource curse that this country faced and in contrast to Norway, gas revenues were neither invested in a sovereign wealth fund nor re-invested in long term infrastructure. The additional income was included in the government budget, arguably doing the same as is currently occurring in the Middle East, namely acting as a political pacifier. The good news was that this income by no means contributed to such a degree of government spending as seen in the Gulf Arab States.

In the end, there does not seem to be an obvious solution and I think the discussed issue ultimately transcends both oil and polity. A slow drawn out decline is usually insufficient to jolt a government into changing its ways. We will see in the coming years how the story this book looks into unfolds, which choices mattered and which proved detrimental to the stability of the region.

A very instructive and enjoyable read.

by NetGalley review


Mirza H. Alqassab

Mirza H. Alqassab is a Bahraini citizen. He has witnessed first-hand the Gulf socio-economic

transformation induced by oil.

After primary school (Grade 6), Alqassab worked full time for 13 years to support his family.

In 1969, he earned a high school diploma (Tawjihiya) with distinction, by studying on his own while working. The Bahrain Government awarded him a scholarship to study abroad.

In 1973, Alqassab received a BA degree in economics from the American University of Beirut (AUB), Lebanon. He secured a Fulbright Fellowship from the US Department of State, and a scholarship from the University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon. In 1975, he obtained a MSc degree in economics from the University of Oregon.

Alqassab's 40-year professional career (1975-2015) covered the oil industry, money and banking, academic teaching, management consultancy and managing businesses; and spanned several countries: Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Malaysia, Singapore and Egypt.


At home in Bahrain
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