By Karen Leigh
Secretary General of the Arab League blames failing monetary policies for rising unrest
The political upheaval that has plagued Middle East states in recent weeks is directly linked to the region’s lack of economic stability, the Secretary General of the Arab League has said.
The thousands protesting in Tunisia, Algeria, Jordan, Egypt and Oman are indicative of failing economic policies, said Amre Moussa at the Arab Economic Summit in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt.
“We are confronted with major political events in the Arab world,” Moussa said. When it comes to political disruption, “economic events are linked. These events have an impact on development or are caused by failure in the development process."
He referenced events in Gaza in 2005 and the Sudan’s recent split into two countries when discussing the economic fallout of a political upheaval like that in Tunisia last week.
He also stressed the need for stronger economic connectivity between Arab countries as a way to alleviate joblessness and other problems facing the Arab world.
Recent weeks have seen a string of public protests across the region, sparked by high unemployment, rising prices and perceived government corruption. Tunisia’s government topped amid a tidal wave of protests sparked when a 26-year-old unemployed man set himself on fire.
On Tuesday, two men set fire to themselves in a copycat action in downtown Cairo.
A third, a 25-year-old unemployed man, died in Alexandria after setting himself alight.
Algeria has also issued reports of burnings, in protest at deteriorating living conditions.
“We do not want the Arab world to be behind all other regions regarding poverty alleviation and human development – there is a challenge confronting us not only in governments but societies,” Moussa said.
“We would not say that a certain government succeeded and another one failed, but that the community failed. As a whole the community should be the monitor for economic progress.
“We have a half-filled cup, so to speak, so it depends on how we build progress and fill the cup to the brim. Poverty unfortunately affects most of our people, and this is [typically] a measure for progress,” he said.
Cooperation between government and the private sector will be imperative to revamp the Middle East’s faltering economies, he said.
“Arab states have adopted resolutions and also we ask business people to contribute to the process of development,” he said.
Egyptian Minister for Trade Rashid Mohammed Rashid said joblessness was a major factor tugging down the Middle East’s progress.
The region must create 40 million jobs over the next 20 years, he told Arabian Business earlier this week.
“What I hope for today… is the integration of CEOs and civil society organizations as well as Arab organizations,” he said. “All countries in the Arab world are in need of economic employment. We need employment for 40mn young people in next [eight years] and this will not be the fruit of just declarations written on paper. This cannot be easily achieved.”
He said overall development had fallen short of expectations.
“What we have achieved runs far short of what we had hoped for. Arab economic cooperation represents 12 percent [of the overall investment GDP.] In the EU it’s 60 percent and in Asia it’s 25 percent.
“So though we’re happy to see this figure increase – six years ago it didn’t even reach seven percent - the route is going to be very long.”
Does Moussa really believe its just poor economic policies that cause instability in the Middle East? Does he not think that corruption, nepotism, and a lack of democracy or rule of law might have something to do with the frustration that has caused recent violent protests?
Totally agree with Sandpiper.
Amr Moussa doesn't know what he is talking about Tunisia had one the most vibrant economies (over 5%growth on average each year over the past 10 years) and it fell because of the corruption, lack of justice, nepotism, confiscation and ostentatious display of wealth by the ruling family, day to day humiliation of the middle class and the complete disconnect between the rulers and the population .
All arab countries even the rich ones face similar problems and distributing cash like Kuwait recently did or pledging $2B for the region (as arab leaders have done) is only further proof of the disconnect of rulers who think they can buy themselves out of anything.
The previous comments seem to say it all.
I guess that what we are all saying is that Mr. Amre Moussa is no different in that he rules over an organization (the Arab League) making assumptions and claims that have nothing to do with reality and proving that he is isolated from the members operating under him (or those they represent).