Friday, February 06, 2009

Not All Arab Problems Are Related to the Peace Process

Jihad El-Khazen, 03/02/09

While attending the annual gathering of the World Economic Forum in Davos, I felt as if I were in a party where the guests continued to dance after the music stopped. Perhaps the guests were there to prove they are not bankrupt… yet.
Undoubtedly, there is a world financial crisis. It will probably persist for years. In spite of this, guests sweetened the dreadful situation by proposing solutions to problems they probably had a hand in creating. Many of them are here since Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher worked on freeing the world economy from chains they claimed to be restricting it. It turned out that the "market did not know any better" as they said, was ruled by greed and ran by conscienceless speculators who proved what we already know: the largest robberies are carried out in broad daylight. The true robbery is establishing a bank and not stealing from it.
In Davos, I attended as many sessions as I could, some by choice, some by work necessity. I have chosen what is worth mentioning to the reader, with minimal personal input.
- Arabs need 100 million jobs in 25 years; 60 percent of Arabs are under 30 years of age; 70 percent of university majors do not help in developing the economy of any country (I hope my figures are correct).
- Even if no Arab working in the Gulf is fired, there will be a crisis in labor-exporting Arab countries if Gulf countries do not employ more job seekers from these countries. This is due to the increasing number of job seekers from countries with excess labor force.
- Arab human relations are good. For instance, there are one million Egyptians in the Gulf, 400 thousand Saudis in Egypt, mostly in Cairo, and hundreds of thousands of others in other Gulf countries. Figures from Arab countries are all encouraging.
- Not all Arab problems are related to the peace process; there are other political, economic and social problems. However, judging any Arab, whether liberal or conservatist, progressist or regressist, religious or secular, is based only on his/her position towards the peace process.
- The wealthy industrialized nations promised to give 0.5 percent of their national income to help poor countries. The percentage may be small but it will amount to $10 billion if rich countries fulfill their promise.
- Years ago, I started collecting evidence of the nearing end of the world: the best golf player in the world is black and the two best tennis players are Spanish and Swiss, not American. Switzerland has "America Cup," the trophy for the most prestigious yacht race in the world, without having any sea borders. In Davos, I collected even more important evidence that the end is near: Russian PM Vladimir Putin and Chinese PM Wen Jiababo lectured on free economy, in front of the business, politics and money elite in the West. The once-Red Russia and the "Red" China are teaching the leaders of America and Western Europe and bankers how to build a sound economy and what is good or bad for the market.
- A strange accusation was leveled at China: it is not spending the foreign currency reserves it is accumulating, particularly in US dollars, thus damaging the world economy. Wen refused the accusation, describing it as an indication of the success of the Chinese economic policy.
- Putin is cunning. He is of small stature, thin and with little hair, but he is very smart. I have seen him in a special session for press members: he got every answer right and did not raise his voice or got angry for the questions that criticized his country's politics. He insisted that the state could not run the economy alone, while the economy could not work separately from the state. He discussed in particular industries that require state intervention, like energy, aviation and aerospace. This ex-KGB seemed more knowledgeable about economy than his Western counterparts.
- I attended a whole session about "The Gulf New Economic Agenda." The participants were friends of mine. They included Abdul Aziz Al Ghurair from the UAE, Khaled Ali Rida from the KSA, Yasser El Halawany from Egypt and Ibrahim Dabdoub from Kuwait. Each one of them is an expert in his field. They sketched a detailed picture of the current situation, discussing their future expectations. Khaled El Jenahi from Bahrain asked about "fixed income" and I tried to understand the answer, because that is what my daughter does. Dr. Abul Rahman Al-Tweijiri, sitting next to me, explained what I was unable to. I think I got it, but I will not venture into an explanation.Finally, I reached Davos holding a bunch of Herald Tribune newspapers. I found out that the issue distributed in Davos was wrapped in four pages of glossy paper. It was an ad entitled: "Saudi Arabia: A Booming Economy in Times of Recession." I hope so.


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