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Sun 27 May 2007 12:00 AM

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Alabbar calls on Business Council to exit WEF

Business Council has 'lost relevance', says Emaar chairman.

Emaar chairman Mohammed Alabbar has called on the Arab Business Council (ABC) to either break away from the World Economic Forum (WEF), or suspend its activities. Alabbar, who was a founding member of the ABC in 2003, argues that the organisation has "lost its relevance" and failed to deliver on its promises.

"There are some aspects of the WEF Middle East meetings that do not live up to the potential of this important event, [and] The Arab Business Council is one such aspect," Alabbar said, speaking exclusively to Arabian Business on the sidelines of this year's forum.

I believe the Council has... gradually lost its relevance for a region as fast moving and promising as ours.

"The ABC was created in 2003 to be a driving force for increased economic competitiveness in the Arab world, and the voice of the Arab business community within the international community," he continued. "I believe the Council has not delivered on its promise, and has gradually lost its relevance for a region as fast moving and promising as ours."

The ABC is composed of leading representatives from the Arab private sector, and its goal is to enhance economic competitiveness in the Arab world. Within the international community, it is acknowledged as a legitimate voice of the Arab business community.

"I believe the time has now come for the ABC to either remove itself from WEF auspices and create an identity more aligned to its intentions, or suspend its activities," said Alabbar. "The WEF, in my opinion, should also look to establishing a much stronger and more representative body to better serve the interest of the Arab business community."

Alabbar insisted that the WEF remains an invaluable platform for change, but explained that it was as a result of his concerns that he chose to withdraw from the Executive Committee of the ABC last year.

"I believe the WEF Middle East is an unparalleled opportunity for the countries of the region, and for their political, economic and civil society leadership, to connect and set the agenda for the coming year," he said. "To bring all these diverse stakeholders together under one roof, and to get them to engage with each other, is truly an achievement."

Alabbar did, however, emphasise that the WEF could go further towards encouraging input from the Maghreb countries.

"The WEF on the Middle East meetings thrive on diversity, and I think we need to see more of our region's diversity represented," he argued.

"I would like to see more engagement with the Maghreb nations - specifically Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia," continued Alabbar. "These emerging economies on the cusp of globalisation have a great deal to offer and teach those of us in the Gulf and Levant, and every effort should be made to include them in our outlook.

"The populous Arab nations of Sudan and Yemen must also make use of this great opportunity to raise and discuss the issues confronting the Arab people. By expanding its inclusiveness, and tightening its existing efforts, I believe the WEF on the Middle East meetings can become the defining platform that shapes the regional agenda," he added.

"Whatever our future relationship with the ABC, the forum will continue to strengthen its ties with the Arab world," founder and executive chairman of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, told
Arabian Business


"The forum has more than 100 of the most important companies in the region as members and partners, and we are continuing to work on ways of how to integrate those companies even more closely into the activities of the WEF and to engage them in the decision making processes of the forum."

"The forum would be more than happy for the ABC to be independent," added a spokesman for the WEF. "However, the ABC absolutely has not lost its relevance, and has been extremely successful.

"If you look at the fact that we actually set up an Israeli-Palestinian Business Council to meet in Jordan, we clearly think that business has a huge role to play in the region," he continued.

"If the forum's about one thing, it's about that we don't think you can have social change without business and economic change. These business councils are absolutely crucial to the future of the region," he added.

Andrew White reporting from the World Economic Forum in Jordan

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