Posted on May 10, 2011

"Economy at the root of dismay and discontent", was a topical issue and a focus at a session of the Enriching the Middle East's Economic Future Conference, which was inaugurated Monday evening at Sheraton Doha. Speakers agreed that the deteriorating economic, political and social conditions, all faces of the same coin, have nourished and kindled the Arab revolts.

Economic degradation, poverty, unequal wealth distribution and deep corruption were all reasons for the absence of social justice and helped fuel the popular upheaval targeting incumbent regimes, in the hope of forcing a change in the political, economic and social status quo. Speakers also concurred that disrespect of human dignity and the failure to apply law and good governance have all contributed to triggering the revolts.

Added to this is the absence of accountability, the lack of economic diversification and the states' substantive subsidies to productive sectors. The pan-Arab image is a catalyst of individual countries plight, the participants explained. In a meager environment of joint investments and a low inter-trade activity, inter-Arab integration must be lacking in an area where spending and consumption is on the rise, whereas investments and exports are on the decrease. Hence, speakers accentuated the need for inter-Arab economic integration through increasing partnerships, laying emphasis on the sectors of transport, energy electricity networking and prioritizing and upgrading the role of the private sectors.

The rising unemployment poses one of the most serious risks to the economies in this part of the world where the rate of 14% of unemployment requires the creation of almost 5 million jobs a year in order to pacify the exploding anger of the masses that are calling for restoration of their rights and preserving their human dignity. Furthermore, the speakers agreed that realizing inter-Arab economic integration was part and parcel of a successful recipe for ending the economic ills of the area.

Eradication of unemployment and stepping up of employment-intensive policies on the pan-Arab level are essential for advancing the region''s economies. Discussions also centered on the social changes forced by globalization, compelling governments to rethink the state's social role.