The end of the Gulf as we know it is coming. Photographer: Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty Images
In the Persian Gulf has oil been a nation-building blessing. The discoveries of petroleum in the mid-20th century turned a desperately poor region into one of the most affluent places on the planet.
However, the current price war in oil markets will only hasten the moment when the unsustainable nature of Gulf economies faces a brutal reckoning.
Without doubt, even in an extreme scenario where crude prices fall as low as $10 a barrel, Gulf producers would remain in the black. The problem comes for their economies, which need a far higher price to balance their budgets and support dollar-linked currencies.
Over the last four years, net financial assets held by the six Gulf monarchies fell by around half a trillion dollars, to around $2 trillion, according to a study by the IMF. Oil at $20 a barrel would run it down, emptying the coffers as soon as 2027.
The era when the Gulf nations and their sovereign wealth funds were magic cash machines prepared to pay top dollar for assets on every continent may be coming to an end. Future generations will never again see the wealth that current subjects enjoy.