Rentier 2.0: Entrepreneurship Promotion and the (Re)Imagination of Political Economy in the Gulf Cooperation Council Countries
MetadataShow full item record
This dissertation provides an examination of the recent phenomenon of entrepreneurship and innovation promotion in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. Through the use of the structured, focused comparison method, this research examines two cases, Oman and Qatar, to provide a deep analysis of the policy and practice of entrepreneurship promotion in the region. Despite a claim of responding to regional challenges of economic diversification and the weak participation of nationals in the private sector, entrepreneurship as a key component of each country’s quest for a knowledge economy seems paradoxical in its ostensible inconsistency with the Gulf rentier state status quo. Path dependencies from oil-led development and the concomitant labour market bifurcation have perpetuated incentive structures which obstruct innovation and entrepreneurialism. Responding to this puzzle, this research answers two questions. The first is concerned with the character and motivation of these strategies in the Gulf, and what that reveals about the evolution of policy making practices. The second assesses the role of the millennial generation and regional transformation. Through interrogating the entrepreneurship policy experience in the case studies, this research extends beyond the often perfunctory assumptions of rentier state literature to investigate the unfolding of development policies in the current milieu. This research finds that entrepreneurship promotion risks only becoming a new way of recasting rentier tools: rentierism 2.0. The study argues that governance in the Gulf is best understood as a contestation between reforms and rentier patterns. Being cognizant of this tension provides a venue for understanding how some policies contravene classic rentier expectations while others appear hypocritical as the implementation of policy announcements become obstructed by structural contradictions. This dissertation makes an empirical contribution on a prominent policy shift in the Gulf that has been largely ignored in social sciences. As well, it provides a theoretical contribution by integrating literature on development and innovation which is generally disconnected from scholarly work on Gulf political economy to deepen understandings of development and transition in the region. Overall, this project provides a window into transition and transformation, demonstrating the way rentier patterns and a combination of novel pressures interact and affect the practices of development policy making and the Gulf ruling bargain.