Examining the role and implications of free zones, tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions in the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Politics


Recent studies indicate that as much as 40% of global corporate profits pass through the world's free zones, tax havens and secrecy jurisdictions. While investigative journalists and leaks such as the Panama Papers have shed light on the workings of these structures, there is limited academic research on the role and implications of free zones within the counties of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC); the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait and Oman, which are often side-lined within studies of global finance. The GCC's development of free zones is not exceptional, but their uses are significant. They form both a key part of the governments' domestic economic agendas and are being exported as development models, designed to increase the GCC states' economic and political power abroad. They are also centres of corporate secrecy, allowing investors to obscure their interests in businesses in the Middle East and beyond and lie outside public scrutiny. My research project therefore aims to address this gap and explore the impact of the GCC's free zones on local, regional and international scales. What effect do these zones have on the local and regional political economy, how are they used to store and move capital, and what is the effect of corporate secrecy and anonymity? In doing so, I hope to contribute to a reassessment of the Gulf as an increasingly significant, and influential, centre of globalised offshore finance.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2460063 Studentship ES/P000703/1 01/01/2021 31/12/2023 Florence Wolstenholme