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Title: The political economy of free zones in the GCC
Author: Mogielnicki, Robert Clyde
ISNI:       0000 0004 8502 9418
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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Free zones (FZs) in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries displayed substantial variation in the timing, scale, and scope of development between 1985 and 2017. This dissertation argues that the utilization of FZs as political instruments - both domestically and internationally - is critical for understanding FZ development outcomes in the region. The work tests this hypothesis using a comparative analysis of FZ development cases structured along three analytical dimensions: hydrocarbon dynamics, elite relationships, and global competition. Field visits to 44 of the 51 FZs observed in the work, 77 interviews with government and business officials associated with FZ development, and an extensive collection of primary source materials provide the data for this study. As the first political economy analysis of the GCC's FZ system, this research employs a qualified version of rentier state theory (RST) and a new conceptual categorization of rents associated with FZs - described in this work as commercialized rents. The concept builds upon existing scholarly applications of RST in the GCC by revealing previously unexplored rentier structures and the embeddedness of local and international elites in non-hydrocarbon development processes. Other aspects of FZ development trajectories, however, qualify RST's ability to comprehensively account for economic development initiatives in the region. The subsequent findings reveal that both resource-scarce and resource-abundant territories across the region employed FZs to generate rents, encourage rent-seeking behavior, and accomplish other political objectives. The specific trajectories of FZ development depended upon domestic, regional, and international factors, which could constrain or encourage FZ proliferation as well as shape FZ policies in a given territory. The work provides an academic foundation for future studies on FZs in the GCC and a broader methodological framework for researchers seeking to unpack the political economy of FZs in other countries and regions.
Supervisor: Robins, Philip Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Gulf Cooperation Council ; Rentier State Theory ; Free Zones ; Economic Diversification