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Doha Time & Temperature

 
 
 
 
Middle East North Africa Financial Network - Amman,Jordan / Oman: Unemployment level in Arab world high
2008-03-16
MENAFN - The Peninsula) The biggest challenge facing the Arab World is creating jobs where the level of unemployment is still very high, Omani Commerce and Industry Minister said here yesterday.

Speaking at a plenary session of the ongoing 'Enriching the Middle East's Economic Future' conference, Maqbool Ali Sultan said there is a need to undertake serious efforts to meet these requirements through more training. "The requirements to create jobs are huge. There are requirements at present to create jobs for 60 million people in the next ten years in the Arab World," he said.

The other no less important challenges are a weak private sector, poor diversification of the economies and now high inflation rates.

Maqbool stressed the need for diversification of the economy because 90 per cent of exports in some countries consist of oil and gas which generate most of their revenues. Therefore diversification of these economies is crucial in order to create jobs. This could be done by setting up downstream infrastructures for oil and gas-based added value products.

As for inflation which was almost inexistent from 1998 to 2004 the rates suddenly shoot up touching double digits in some countries, the minister said. He said all these challenges are inter-related and in order to create jobs there is a need for a strong economy and sustainable growth to absorb the workforce which involves enacting proper regulations and skills.

Taking the GCC as an example, the intra-trade is still low at 10 per cent mainly because the main trade of these countries is based on oil and gas exports with minimal non-oil products. Besides, after years of free trade between the GCC countries, the Custom Union is still face with difficulties such the distribution of custom duties.

Maqbool also stressed the importance of Free Trade Agreement between the GCC and other economic blocs. He said the GCC as bloc is in negotiation with such countries as India, China, Turkey and others.

He said the GCC with similar economies and joint organizations like the Gulf Organization for Industrial Consulting and Trademark Organisation among others have helped in further promoting integration between these countries.

Other joint projects are in the pipeline such as a trans-Gulf railway network, electricity grid links, besides all the GCC are dedicated to utilizing oil revenues for human resources development, to diversification of their economies and to cooperation in infrastructure in different areas.

However, although Arab countries as whole did well in 2005 and 2006 with substantial economic growth, increase of foreign direct investment, integration between them is still complex. The Free Trade Agreement between the Gulf and other Arab countries (GAFTA) is still faced with many difficulties because of the differences in their economies, a big disparity in their GDP, differences in resources and other factors such stability.

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