Forum says that MENA region should develop infrastructure to accelerate growth
The Middle East needs $4.3trn to build infrastructure that will help accelerate economic growth and help create jobs for 50 million people over the next 15 years, experts have said.
Speaking at the Middle East and North Africa Economic Forum, a panel of experts pointed out that 23% of the 400 million strong population lives on less than $2 a day, while population growth is at 2.2%, double the global rate.
Despite these challenges, the region hosts 60% of the world’s oil wealth and 40% of its gas reserves, the panel said. This made education and skill development crucial for the overall social and economic growth of the region, a report in Gulf News said.
As such, some of the panel recommended that the region should liberalise its investment laws to open doors for foreign direct investment, while others focused more on education and skills development.
“We have many good success stories and we could build on those successes and replicate in where it is not there,” Saif Al Ghafli, chief executive of Al Hosn Gas, said at the forum.
“With $4.3trn investment needed to develop infrastructure, countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) could look at our successes in developing infrastructure in the GCC and take lessons from these projects.”
Salah Al Shamsi, chairman of Liwa Holding, added: “Before seeking investment, we should make our homes tidy. We have funds, facilities in place. But we need to ask for help — we hesitate to seek help.” He was referring to countries affected by the Arab Spring, for not asking for help to the developed part of the Middle East.
However, Khaldoon Rashid Tabari, vice chairman and CEO of Drake and Scull International, countered by pointing out that the Arab Spring countries or the Middle Eastern countries should not look at Europe for help.
“I do not see Europe as a fund provider of investor any more, given the fact that its hands are full of challenges. I think we should look inwards for solution. We have plenty of wealth, funds and know-how within the region from which other countries in need could benefit,” he claimed, though he conceded that the region did not have banks to fund small and medium enterprises (SMEs), which needed to change.
“We needs banks to fund SMEs so that they could create jobs,” he said.