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Report Cites Slow Economic Growth in Arab World - 2002-09-09

In a report issued Monday, the Geneva-based World Economic Forum says the Arab region has the second slowest rate of economic growth in the world. Only Africa, according to the group, has a slower rate of growth.

The report marks the first time the World Economic Forum has focused its attention exclusively on the Arab world. It says economic growth in the region has been slowing down for 20 years.

World Economic Forum spokesman Frederick Sicre says the economic performance of the region should be much better, considering the vast entrepreneurial talent that exists there.

"Growth in the Arab world is far from where it should be," he said. "And with all the talent and with all the entrepreneurship [that] exists in that part of the world certainly the potential has to be unleashed."

The World Economic Forum report says while economic growth is slowing, the population in Arab countries is skyrocketing. This, says report author Peter Cornelius, gives economic growth in the region an even greater priority. "The labor force becomes younger and younger, which has massive implications for the labor market," he pointed out. "We already have elevated levels of unemployment in many of the countries of the Arab League so there is a sense of urgency here."

The World Economic Forum says urgent reforms are needed to open up the region to outside trade and investment. It also recommends that the role of the state in the economic sector be reduced to encourage private entrepreneurship and risk-taking.

Finally, it calls for the overhaul of educational systems in the Arab world so that schools provide young people with training in technology skills.