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20 April 2024

Arabs to step up economic integration

Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai at the Arab Economic Summit. (WAM)


Arab leaders meeting in Kuwait approved a declaration yesterday calling for steps to accelerate the economic integration of Arab states and confront the fallout of the global financial crisis.

The leaders also approved a number of economic resolutions, including launching an Arab customs union in 2010, a pan-Arab power grid and a rail network project.

The Kuwait Declaration called for "adopting monetary and fiscal policies to enable Arab nations to face the consequences of the global financial crisis."

Arab countries have incurred losses of 2.5 trillion dollars due to the financial and economic turmoil, Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Al Sabah said last week.

The leaders also announced the establishment of the Arab Development Fund with capital of two billion dollars to provide loans and assistance for Arab joint projects. The declaration urged "necessary steps to uplift the living standards of Arab citizens and to give priority to promoting inter-Arab investments."

The Arab League, comprising 22 member states, estimates Arab capital invested at home is less than 20 per cent of funds invested by Arab nations and businessmen in the US and Europe.

"Despite progress made by some Arab nations, the Arab world is still facing many challenges...especially poverty, unemployment, poor inter-Arab trade and migration of Arab capital and brains," the declaration said.

It also called for "strengthening the role of Arab funds and financial institutions by boosting their resources and easing restrictions on providing loans."

The customs union will be completed in 2015 as a prelude to establishing an Arab common market in 2020, according to one resolution.

Arab countries launched the Pan-Arab Free Trade Area about three years ago but it did little to boost commerce among members states, which remained at just between 10 per cent and 12 per cent of total Arab trade.

The summit also approved a resolution calling for measures that would halve the regional unemployment rate, which topped 14 per cent last year, in the period between 2010 and 2020.

The leaders approved another resolution calling for the implementation of an Arab programme for the reduction of poverty, which exceeds 40 per cent in at least seven Arab nations.

They also approved a resolution calling for improved water security, one of the most acute problems facing the Arab world, where the desert makes up 68 per cent of its area.

Although the Arab world occupies 10 per cent of the world's land and has five percent of the its population, its water resources are just a meagre 0.59 per cent of the world's, according to the Arab League.