The Arab world entered 2024 in crisis.
There are ongoing military conflicts in Gaza, Sudan, and the Red Sea. There is civil strife in Syria, Yemen, and Libya. Even Pakistan was recently bombed by Iran (it bombed back, and then they shook hands).
Lebanon’s economy is broken. Egypt, Jordan, and Tunisia are saddled with debt. Algerians are jobless and hungry. Iraq’s government can't govern. And Palestinians are further from a state of their own than at any other time.
Across the region, economic conditions are gloomy, living standards are declining, prices are rising, currencies are faltering, development prospects are lacking, labour markets are turbulent, and unemployment is high.
Political leaders and their economic administrators are facing key questions. The answers they find will go some way to defining the fortunes of their countries and the wider region.
Crucially, how can they lift people out of misery, improve their living conditions, enable them to create wealth, and enhance opportunities for sustainable development?
There is no doubt that the challenges are difficult and the obstacles numerous. The creativity and development that can boost productivity, investment, and economic growth are still missing.
Growth and hope
The Arab Investment and Export Credit Guarantee Corporation’s annual report for 2023 put growth for the year among Arab economies at 1.8%.
The organisation, set up in 1974 and based in Kuwait, has a strong reputation. It pointed out that Arab growth was below last year’s wider global rate of 3%.