By Daniel Shane
Crescent Petroleum boss says job creation and private sector investment essential for political stability
The Arab world's high rate of youth unemployment is "a timebomb" which threatens the Middle East's political stability, according to one of the UAE's most prominent businessmen, who called for the implementation of a regional framework to promote private investment and create jobs.
Speaking at the 9th Arabian Business Forum in Dubai on Tuesday, Crescent Petroleum CEO Majid Jafar said joblessness, not a desire for democracy, was the major cause of the Arab Spring protests and had still not been addressed by the regional governments.
According to International Monetary Fund figures, around 20m young in the Middle East are out of work, which is among the highest rates in the world. "Three years after the so-called Arab Spring, nothing has been done about this problem," claimed Jafar.
Jafar said that high unemployment figures in the region were due to insufficient economic growth in Arab countries, rigid labour market policies and a miss-match between education and skills required by employers.
"It has turned into an acute crisis with a need for urgent and rapid attention," said Jafar. "The threat to the Middle East is instability, which is driven by this youth unemployment timebomb. We cannot achieve political stability without economic stability."
Jafar said that Arab Spring countries could not rely on hand-outs from Gulf countries in the medium to long-term, and called for a new regional framework to promote private sector investment in infrastructure. "Loans and grants, although necessary in the short-term, do not address the root cause," he said.
Jafar's proposal, known as the Arab Stabilisation Plan, would prioritise infrastructure projects on a national level and boost economic growth in countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Libya.
Jafar said that the proposal, which takes its inspiration from the US-led Marshal Plan to rebuild post-war Europe, would create private sector jobs and prevent youths from drifting towards extremism.
He added that the investment would come primarily from within the Arab world, such as the Gulf countries, and that the region could not rely on the West for financial support.
Jafar told delegates at the Arabian Business Forum that jobs, rather than democracy, ought to be the legacy of the Arab Spring.
"Democracy is not a magic wand. Israel is never going to get security if Gaza has the highest youth unemployment in the world," Jafar claimed.
I hope someone is listening out there before its too late
Democracy means free press to expose corruption , and an empowered population that can make sure its courts and politicians remain clean, and fair and just rules so that everyone has an equal chance at success.De linking the two is nonsensical. The main thrust of this talk is to demand a bigger piece of the pie for the private sector, i.e. the speaker.....
Long-term effective employment strategies are the key. Throwing money at a problem is a band-aid solution, and as we all know, band-aids eventually fall off. Employing local populations is essential, but simply hiring a local who does not have the necessary skills does not really solve the problem. We need to have the "rightest" local person in place, and then create an environment where they can further grow and develop in order to maximize their performance and the performance of the people around them. Focus on effective management and leadership development programs. Strong managers will grow organizations / departments by attracting, retaining and developing the right people. Positive growth organizations will significantly contribute to sustainable employment.
Improvement in employment opportunities will only come when the Sovereign wealth funds of this region invest a larer portion of the resources locally rather than purchasing businesses oveseas.
Every barrel of oil as well as every cu/ft of Gas once extracted is lost for ever. The revenues from this precious commodity should be harnessed and invested locally for the future of coming generations rather than purchasing expensive property in Europe & US. That practice has created resentment in those countries because the property prices have been pushed up to the extent that local populace can't afford to buy homesin their own countries. That wealth should have been used to develop industries here to generate employment opportunities for the next generation. The funds clearly employ capable managers who have the 'Midas Touch' and have increased the wealth. But wealth by itself is of no consequence if it means jobs for "only a few" . Youth with poor job prospects can be the cause of unrest.