Arab unemployment hits 20 percent

Special to World
Monday, February 10, 2003

CAIRO Unemployment in the Arab world has reached 20 percent.

The Arab League said unemployment in the region has increased amid insufficient development and trade. The league also cited the absence of technology.

Ahmed Gowaili, secretary-general of the Arab League Economic Unity Council, said the Arab world requires a growth rate of more than seven percent to reduce the unemployment rate. He said this would involve a huge investment in development and job creation.

Gowaili told the Arab Affairs parliamentary committee last month in Cairo that despite efforts by some Arab countries there is little prospect of an Arab economic union. He said trade and investment by Arab countries in the region range between four and eight percent.

The league has sponsored research to promote inter-Arab trade to 20 percent of total volume over the next five years. Gowaili said such an achievement would require an investment of $60 billion.

A United Nations report confirmed many of the Arab League conclusions. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia said the Arab world lags well behind other regions in such areas as global trade, computers and tourism.

The UN report said Arab residents of the Middle East, who comprise 4.7 percent of the world population, account for two percent of global goods and services.

The report urged Arab states to link stock markets across the Middle East and remove barriers to free trade. Another recommendation was to establish a bank to finance regional development.

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