Leaders, experts call for pan-Arab ‘Marshall Plan’

By Omar Obeidat JORDAN TIMES

DEAD SEA – The Arab world needs a Marshall Plan under which rich countries provide financial support to develop the economies of other states in the region, leading policy makers and experts suggested Saturday.

European countries and the US will not be able to help Arab states due to their own fiscal problems, Ibrahim Dabdoub, chairman of the National Bank of Kuwait, said, adding that the current difficulties facing the Arab world need a large-scale plan to enable low-income countries to achieve development and create jobs.

“They can only advise us on how to manage our finances so we can depend on ourselves,” said Dabdoub, who raised the issue during a World Economic Forum (WEF) session, titled “The New Economic Context”.

Sitting on the stage as a panellist, Egyptian Minister of Manpower Ahmad Boraei voiced support for the idea and urged the secretary general of the Arab League, Nabil Al Arabi, who was among the audience, to adopt the plan through the pan-Arab organisation.

The Marshall Plan was an American programme to aid Europe where the US gave monetary support to help rebuild European economies after the end of World War II in order to combat the spread of Soviet communism.

The plan, which started in 1948, was in operation for four years. Its main goals included rebuilding the war-devastated region, removing trade barriers, modernising industry and revive Europe as a prosperous continent. The initiative was named after US Secretary of State George Marshall.

The suggested plan for the Arab world, which, advocates said, should be in cooperation with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, aims at solving Arab countries’ key problem of unemployment. Dabdoub noted that the region should create around 85 million jobs in the coming decade.

But Chairman of the Executive Board of the National Transitional Council of Libya Mahmoud Jibril indicated that the issue in the Arab world is not money but the management of money.

Trade between Arab states can be an answer to boost pan-Arab cooperation and development, he said, adding Arabs also need to focus on knowledge and talents, in addition to taking advantage of tourism and alternative energy.

Prime Minister-designate Awn Khasawneh agreed that a Marshall Plan is important for regional development, but also stressed the need for proper management of public funds and combating corruption to achieve prosperity.

Boraei noted that Egypt needs to create around 950,000 job opportunities a year until 2020, indicating that traditional ways to create employment through small- and medium-size enterprises have failed so far to solve unemployment problems, calling for joint Arab partnerships to implement mega-schemes.

NOTE BY THE EDITOR: A good plan. However, simple ‘cash’ is not sufficient. The big problem, not only in the region but in the world, these days is UNEMPLOYMENT. We have to directly target this challenge!

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