‘Very exciting’ future beyond oil for Gulf countries, Investcorp says

'Very exciting' future beyond oil for Gulf countries, Investcorp says

Oil-reliant Gulf countries have a future beyond fossil fuels in industries such as entertainment and hospitality, the co-CEO of an investment firm told CNBC on Wednesday.

While the GCC could simply look backward and be “wedded” to the oil industry, Hazem Ben-Gacem, co-chief executive of Investcorp, said he would like the region to “think differently.”

“There is a very exciting GCC that is beyond oil, that is in so many other industries, whether entertainment, hospitality, industrial, services,” he told CNBC’s “Capital Connection” at the Milken Institute Middle East and Africa Summit in Abu Dhabi.

The Gulf Cooperation Council is an economic alliance that includes large oil-exporting countries.

When asked if he is worried about $50 oil, he said there will always be issues to be worried about, but “we can’t be bogged down.” Whether oil prices are low or high, what matters is the strategy and direction for the future, said Ben-Gacem.

“I think there is a clear path for GCC 2.0 that is away from fossil fuel. That is very exciting,” he said.

“I have no doubt … in 15, 20 years’ time, I think it will be very impressive what this region of the world has accomplished,” he added.

Oil prices not the driver of Saudi’s economy

Another investor at the Milken Institute summit separately weighed in on Saudi Arabia’s changing relationship with oil.

Fadi Arbid, chief investment officer of Amwal Capital Partners, told CNBC that entertainment and tourism will be “building blocks” of the Saudi economy, but social changes such as women entering the workforce would also have an impact on GDP growth for the kingdom.

“The trajectory has been oil independence, ultimately,” he said.

“That’s the ultimate plan of Vision 2030,” Arbid said, referring to Saudi Arabia’s agenda to reform the economy.

He said the government has fostered private sector participation and grown non-oil revenue as part of this push toward diversifying the economy.

“We’re in that paradigm world,” he said. “We should not look at oil prices as the driver of the Saudi economy anymore.”