Political and security concerns may stifle economic growth

DUBAI — Political and security concerns in the Arab world, the high price of oil and its impact on reform efforts, and the region's high rate of unemployment, are the main issues that will be tackled at the fourth Arab Strategy Forum (ASF), said the ASF's vice-chairman, Nabil Al Yousuf yesterday. The theme of the two-day forum, which will run from December 4-6, is 'Creating Opportunity from Change'.

By Lucia Dore (Senior correspondent)

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Published: Fri 7 Jul 2006, 12:15 PM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 3:00 PM

More than 500 Arab leaders from the Gulf, Levant and North Africa are expected to come together at the Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, to discuss concrete strategies for resolving current and critical issues in the region.

It will focus on three main issues, explained Al Yousuf. First, the political and government systems in the Arab world, in particular the impact of political and security changes. "Will security threats stifle growth or create opportunities?" he asked. And there is a major trend towards greater participation in government, he said. "What, therefore is the role of the government going forward? Will it be a facilitator of development and growth?" he asked.

The second concern will focus on economic and business trends. An important question is whether the rising price of oil will encourage governments to halt the reform efforts begun when the oil price was much lower, said Al Yousuf. And what role will the government play a role in attracting investment? "Do they think there is already enough investment in the region to fuel growth?" he asked. "Are governments creating opportunities to absorb capital or will it flow outside the Arab world?"

The third concern is what is happening on the social front, especially the education system and whether it will be able to meet the needs of the job market, said Al Yousuf. High unemployment across the Arab world is forcing governments to seek new ways to reduce unemployment levels, and there has been increasing discussion about how encouraging entrepreneurship and innovation can bring down these levels. Al Yousuf said it is important to address how other countries look at the Arab world and their perceptions of it.

Unlike earlier forums, the ASF has this year commissioned bespoke research and data to ensure that the "issues can be looked at from the perspective of the Arab world," said Al Yousuf. He also said that participants would be able to use more sophisticated technology in order to increase the level of participation between delegates and speakers.

Speakers at the 2001 and 2004 forums included Bill Clinton, former US president; Prince Al Waleed bin Talal Al Saud, chairman of Kingdom Holding company and one of the leading entrepreneurs and international investors; Madeleine Albright, former US secretary of state; and Mohamed Al Baradei, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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