According to a new report on the Middle East, Arab countries will achieve economic growth in 2008 in the range of 5.4% to 5.7%, compared with a growth rate of 4.9% in 2007. The report, prepared by the General Federation of Chambers of Industry and Trade in the Arab countries states that despite improvements in the standard of living in many Arab countries, many of them continue to suffer from chronic unemployment, poverty, low productivity, drought, water scarcity, absence of food security and poor infrastructure, in addition to problems related to health, education and social welfare.
The report highlights the progress made in the oil-rich Gulf countries, which are benefitting from an enormous increase in oil revenues, translated into a massive infrastructure projects valued at $700 billion.
In terms of agriculture, the total value of agricultural production was estimated in 2007 at $79.3 billion, which averages $257 per capita, rising from $232 a year earlier. However, there is a production gap that costs $17.9 million to be filled through imports, particularly of grain, sugar and vegetable oils. Industrial commodity export will reach $1 trillion by the end of 2008 compared with $800 billion in 2007. The increase is attributed to the rapid growth in petrochemical industries in UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Egypt and Algeria.
The report also highlights the tremendous expansion of airports. Qatar leads in airport investment at $5.5 billion to raise its airport’s absorptive capacity from 8 million to 50 million passengers. Dubai is investing $8.1 billion in a new airport with an absorptive capacity of 70 million passengers.
The report values private wealth in the Gulf countries at $5.1 trillion.
al-Destour, April 24, 2008