Global oil prices have dropped sharply over the past year, leading to significant revenue shortfalls in many energy exporting nations - and according to experts there is no end in sight.
It is an alert, not an alarm, because all these countries, including Saudi Arabia, are starting from a position of strength where they have significant buffers accumulated over the last few years... But if countries do nothing and assuming the price of oil was to stay at the level where it is, then certainly reserves would be depleted promptly, and more promptly than one would imagine.
Oil and gas producing countries in the Gulf region are struggling to keep their income and expenses in balance.
If they do not adapt to the oil price drop and seek alternatives, countries like Saudi Arabia could run out of buffers in just five years, warns the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in a recent report.
"The price of oil has sharply declined in the last 12 months and... we do not see a significant improvement in the near term. So as a result of the new reality, we believe that finance ministers and authorities should take steps in the spending site of their budget, in the revenue site of their budget, and they should also welcome private sector operators in order to create growth from alternative sources," said Christine Lagarde, the head of the IMF.
Lagarde travelled to the Gulf countries to deliver this message in person, meeting both, leaders and the younger generation in order to raise awareness and to offer solutions.
One of them involves the imposition of what might have been difficult to imagine just a few months ago: taxes.
"When you are running out of money, you don't have many options. You need to cut expenses or look for other income - or both," Lagarde said.
But aside from the issue of oil prices, there are many other critical issues facing the global economy and thereby the IMF.
Christine Lagarde, the head of the International Monetary Fund, talks to Al Jazeera about the future of the GCC economies, Europe's refugee crisis, the continuing financial problems in Greece, and the rising power of China. She also talks about inspiring women across the globe and her career - will she run for president in France's next presidential elections?
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Source: Al Jazeera