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Arab economies must not be generalised In Theory.

Byline: Mohammad Al Asoomi, Special to Gulf News

Regional Arab reports still place the economies of Arab countries in one category, contrary to reports by international organisations which have realised the differences between Arab economies over the past two decades.

Perhaps classifying Arab countries in one category was possible 20 years ago, but many qualitative changes took place in the economic and social structures of these countries during the past years, which widened the gap between them in terms of economic and social indexes.

Within the same context, living standards and the use of modern technologies in some Arab countries have reached the level of advanced countries. These include the use of internet, and education, health and public services, as well as income per capita.

Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries ranked first among Arab countries in these fields. Other non-oil Arab countries, such as Morocco achieved a noticeable progress in the use of modern technologies and access to high education.

Many Arab countries remained in the same place for reasons not related to wealth, but to development management.

There are rich Arab countries outside the GCC bloc which did not benefit from the oil leap in the past five years, and where the levels of public services and the use of modern technologies remained way below global rates. Further, the slow development of infrastructure in these countries was incompatible with their potential.

According to the United Nations Human Development Report 2007-08 released by the UN Development Programme, human development indexes in GCC countries reached advanced levels close to developed countries, while other Arab countries came last.

Therefore, classifications adopted by regional Arab organisations must be revised in line with the changes that took place in the economic and social structures in some Arab countries in the past years.

The differences between Arab countries have become very clear through their development indexes.

Since these reports do not give development management the importance it deserves, they just divide Arab countries into rich and poor, not taking into consideration their successes.

This does not mean that there are no common points among Arab countries, such as expenditure on scientific research compared to gross domestic product (GDP). Yet such common points do not stand in the way of classification based on the mentioned categories, which are the focus of reports by international organisations.

According to the Human Development Report, internet usage per 1,000 people reached 668 in Japan, 430 in France and Finland, 173 in GCC countries, 152 in Morocco, 118 in Jordan and just 36 in Libya and 9 in Yemen.

This usage will help spread the use of modern technology and contribute to building the knowledge-oriented economy in countries with high internet penetration.

Meanwhile, income per capita reached $31,000 (Dh113,770) in Japan, France and Finland, an average of $21,000 in GCC countries, $5,500 in Morocco and Jordan, $9,000 in Libya and $1,000 in Yemen.

The importance of these figures is that they aim at encouraging Arab countries with low human development rates to increase investment in education, health and use of modern technologies, as well as develope some economic sectors to raise living standards.

Reclassifying Arab countries in accordance with international standards will create competition to achieve good performance and the use of resources to raise living standards and gain new abilities in the knowledge-based economy.

Aa

Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Date:Aug 13, 2009
Words:587
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