The 9th annual Arabian Business Forum as it happened

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Live coverage from the 9th annual Arabian Business Forum

Live coverage from the 9th annual Arabian Business Forum

14:00: As the delegates and speakers enjoy lunch here are some of the big headlines from this morning's session:

Tony Blair's opinions on democracy in the Middle East

Is it too early to judge the Arab Spring?

Arab youth unemployment 'a timebomb', says Majid Jafr

Emiratisation failing to cut UAE jobless rate, says Al Mulla

Arab Spring was 'best thing to happen', says Munib Masri

13:20: We’re now into questions from the floor. Should governments meddle with labour laws, or stick to their main role of preventing monopolies and so on. “You need governments to be hands on, they have to take a positive role, at least at the initial stage to lead this, but with the proper strategies,” says Al Mulla. Later, the panellists agree, governments can then take a step back. Neil points out that the government has been absolutely critical to the growth of Dubai, for example.

It’s been another fascinating discussion, but again time has caught up with us. Jafar and Al Mulla leave the stage, and it’s time for us to take a short lunch break.

During the break take a look back over some of the winners at last night's Arabian Business Gala Awards Dinner.

Click here for images from today's forum

13:00: Now we’re into the debate. How can spending on infrastructure solve unemployment, Neil asks. “It can be both capital intensive and labour intensive,” says Jafar. “There’s plenty of infrastructure investment in the Gulf, but that hasn’t solved unemployment issues here,” says Neil.

Al Mulla points out that in locations like Egypt, which doesn’t have a large expatriate worker population, infrastructure spending can work. Jafar cites the example of Aqaba in Jordan, which is undergoing massive redevelopment; it’s not just potential construction workers who will benefit, but the hundreds of other businesses that will be attracted to the area and utilise that infrastructure.

Jafar cites the example of China, which spends 15 percent of its GDP on infrastructure every year, come what may. He says that this is one of the reasons why the country hasn’t seen any recent instability. In the Middle East, that figure is only 5 percent.

Given the instability, aren’t those unemployment figures actually going to get worse, rather than better, asks Neil. “In the short term, that’s definitely likely to be the case,” says Al Mulla.

Isn’t there also a fear of the brain drain – the best and brightest of the Arab world heading off to the West? “Any well-educated Arab looks to Dubai as a place to work, and they are leaving their own countries,” agrees Al Mulla. He also adds that there isn’t a problem in terms of the amount of capital that can be provided – whether that comes in the form of sovereign wealth funds or another form of funding – it’s more about the environment in which the funding will take place.  

 

...continued on next page

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