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Wed 20 Jan 2010 02:13 PM

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Take the 'bling' out of Dubai

So you’re not planning to spend $75,000 for two nights at the Burj Al Arab? Well, you’re not alone.

So you're not planning to spend $75,000 for two nights at the Burj Al Arab? Well, you're not alone. As the ‘bling’ season gets into full swing, as proved by
last week’s lavish offer from Royal Jet

, it’s worth sparing a moment to read the latest report from the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Arab League into the precarious situation in the wider region.

The statement, which was released at the end of last year, highlighted that the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) needs to find 51 million new jobs by 2020 – just for the current regional unemployment rate to remain at a standstill.While unemployment is also a growing concern in the rest of the world – 10.4 percent in the US and 19.4 percent in Spain – the Arab League report states that the proportion of young people that are out of work as a percentage of total unemployment in most Arab countries stands at more than half.

A closer look at the Arab Labour Organisation’s figures shows that Algeria is the most-affected country, with that same figure for the country’s younger generation standing at around 70 percent. Try marketing the ultimate two-day break to them.

And that’s to say nothing of the high poverty rate, currently at around 40 percent on average, showing that around 140 million Arabs continue to live under the upper property line. The real revelation here is that there has actually been no decrease in Arab poverty rates over the last 20 years, while some states even saw poverty increase.

The Arab Knowledge Report 2009, a collaboration between the UNDP (again) and the Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation, also pointed out that wealth is badly distributed, with rural areas suffering much more poverty than urban ones.

Of course, the figures are – generally speaking – not nearly as severe in the GCC. The UAE’s figures for youthful unemployment are more than twice as good as the world average, and around seven and a half times better than Algeria and Iraq’s.

It should also be remembered that contributions from the Gulf are significant and frequent. The aforementioned Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation has a $10 billion endowment to help build a knowledge economy base in the region that should, in time, eradicate some of these problems. The Zayed Charitable Foundation performs a similar role.

Sadly, however, perception rather than reality tends to grab the headlines - which is why I suspect most of us will be more fascinated with what Royal Jet and Co have to say rather more than the UNDP.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall