Clinton urges more productivity, economic diversification
Web posted at: 1/31/2006 3:4:59
Source ::: The Peninsula

Doha: Former US President Bill Clinton urged countries in the Middle East to push for increased productivity, economic diversification and a larger skilled workforce to build an evolving economy.

Clinton told the conference on the Middle East's Economic Future, which opened yesterday, that governments must assess their policies and exert efforts to provide the infrastructure and the capital necessary to create new business opportunities in areas beyond oil, gas and its related enterprises.

He also called for genuine effort to streamline regulations to create successful and sustainable business opportunities and set up a system of ongoing education and training both to get as close to a hundred percent of young people in the general years of schooling as possible and to increase the number of people going into university education.

He said that the model that has been adopted in Qatar with the creation of education city and the setting up of several educational institutions was stunning and a model to be followed.

Clinton also pointed out that there is a need to maximize the brain power of each country, which means there will have to be more women in workforce than there are now, particularly in skilled positions.

In order to build a diversified economy with many small businesses, he said, a significant and constant source of consumer capacity has to be guaranteed.

"Thought has to be given to whether there is a minimum wage in a country and whether it is adequate and whether there is a system of unemployment insurance where there is higher unemployment, because you can't really build a small business economy unless you have a strong consumer base", he said.

He added that attention should be given to the capacity of a country to train people for business and put stromg emphasis on business education and how to manage information technology which is a key to productivity revolution.

Clinton gave as an example the situation in the US, noting that the big contribution of information technology in America's growth in the 1990s came from its integration in every other aspect of the economy

“Everything from inventory management of small businesses to the maximization of IT requires the knowledge of modern systems that can be taught, but requires a certain parallel number of people who understand this thing in every nation if you really want to diversify an economy and increase productivity", he added.

Replying to a query, Clinton noted that in a traditional society as is the case in the region with guaranteed sources of income from oil and people owning substantial amount of cash, it is hard to promote change.

"When you start to move away from oil, it is frustrating to see that lot of the capital going into the real estate development, but it is the next asset close at hand, but it does create a certain number of jobs", he said.

He added that in order to go beyond petroleum and its related industries and real estate, there is a need for political, financial, governmental and social changes, all of which are triggered when political participation is broaden and the way people are educated change.