“The Gulf single currency is not happening tomorrow or the day after,” says Kuwait’s Finance Minister Mustafa al-Shamali. “Sufficient time” is needed to prepare for such a move the minister told the Kuwaiti parliament last week.
Al-Shamali’s statement is startling in how matter-of-factly it reveals the intent of the Gulf states to abandon the dollar.
Last month, veteran British journalist Robert Fisk filed a story titled “The Demise of the Dollar” in which he claimed that the Gulf countries were secretly working to set up a new currency to be used for oil trade. The report shook the markets and provoked a furor across the globe with many accusing Fisk of posting sensational stories based on obscure sources.
It turns out that Fisk was right. If anything his article understated how far along the Gulf countries had come in their quest to replace the dollar. So much so that they had set the beginning of the next year as the start of the new monetary regime. And even though they will not be able to meet the ambitious deadline, its very existence underscores the earnestness of those countries to decouple themselves from the dollar framework.
Such a move would have devastating repercussions for the United States, because it would deal a major blow to the dollar’s status as the world’s reserve currency. Once the dollar loses that special standing foreign central banks and investors will no longer be willing to continue purchasing Treasury bonds at low interest.
Deprived of the ability to borrow cheaply from abroad, the American government would be forced to monetize portions of its debt in order to obtain cash for its expenditures. This would lead, among other things, to runaway inflation.
Perhaps the most telling thing about the ongoing effort of the Gulf states to drop the greenback is that none of them is an outright enemy of America. The United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia maintain – for the most part – friendly relations with the United States.
Their effort is thus not driven by some insidious desire to harm the US, but by the reckless monetary and fiscal policies of our own government.