Welcome to the Middle East Today

The Middle East has traditionally been important for the world economy. The Middle East situation today has an impact on all aspects of life in America and much of the world.

Only by understanding the motivations of the various factions in the Middle East can we hope to understand how to promote peace and national security for Middle Eastern nations, Europe, and the United States.

Nov 30, 2009

The Brain Drain in the Arab World

The population of the Arab world is approximately 330 million. It is projected that this number is to double within the next 25 to 30 years.

Currently, unemployment is an explosive issue, specially in the most populated Arab countries. According to a recent report unemployment within the labor force has reached 15%. However, the percentage of unemployment differs from country to country. It is unfortunate that it is the highest among college graduates which is a challenge to the governments and the private economic sectors. This large idle number of university graduates are considered to be ticking bombs in Arab countries.

The World Bank reported that Arab governments need to create between 2010-2020 two million new jobs per year in order to accommodate those who are entering the market every year.

I have my doubts that the World Bank suggestion could be implemented for the following reasons:

1. Absence of a clear blueprint strategy for economic development in most Arab countries.

2. Meager foreign investments, specially in highly populated countries such as, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Sudan and Morocco.

3. Corruption that prevails both in public and private sectors discourage foreign investments.

4. Poor quality of education at all levels which is preventing progress and modernization.

5. Investment outside the region of oil money, specially from the Gulf region.

A recent study done by the Arab League (The Middle East, 9/2008) stated that the immigration of Arab college graduates to other countries are causing a' brain drain' in the Arab world. It has been increasing dramatically in the past few years. Seventy thousand college graduates immigrate to western countries every year. This number is almost equal to 1/4 of all college graduates, which has been estimated at 300,000 per year.

The study further reveals that the economic loss due to the 'brain drain,' is equal to $1.5 billion to the countries that have educated the immigrating graduates: fifty per cent of graduating doctors, 23% of engineers, and 15% of scientists leave the Arab world. Furthermore, the study maintains that 54% of Arab students who graduated from colleges in the West do not return to their country of origin. To illustrate this last point, 34%of active doctors in Britain alone are Arabs.

To conclude, I would like to stress the fact that there are hundred of thousands of highly educated Arabs in western and northern European countries, the USA, Canada and Australia. It is a big gain to those countries, and a significantly loss for the Arab world.

Is there a visible solution in the horizon for such brain drain?
Your comment will be an addition to this post.

Nov 21, 2009

Corruption in the Arab World

The meeting of Transparency International was held, recently, in Qatar. It focused on the issue of corruption which is prevailing world wide. At the meeting a scale was from 0-10 was applied to measure corruption in all countries affiliated with the United Nations (180 countries). The highest the score the least the corruption. It is referred to as "Corruption Perception Index" (CPI).

Al Jazeera.net (11/18/09) reported the results that Transparency International published regarding the corruption level in the Arab world. The following is the classification of countries based on the score from 0 to 10:
Qatar = 7 ; United Arab Emirates = 6.5 ; Oman =5.5 ; Bahrain = 5.1 ; Jordan = 5.0 ; Saudi Arabia = 4.3 ; Tunis = 4.2 ; Kuwait = 4.1 ; Morocco = 3.3 ; Algeria =2.8 ; Egypt = 2.8 ; Jibouti= 2.8 ; Syria = 2.6 ; Lebanon = 2.5 ; Libya = 2.5 ; Mauritania = 2.5 ; Yemen = 2.1 ; Iraq = 1.5 ; Sudan = 1.5 ; Somali = 1.1 .
For the sake of comparison the highest ranked country with the least corruption was New Zealand. It ranked at the top the scale with a score of 9.4, followed by Denmark with a score of 9.3

According to Transparency International corruption world wide cost the public more than one trillion dollars last year (2008). One third of that figure is in the Middle East Region. Unfortunately, corruption is becoming a routine in the Arab world specially on the government level. The average citizen accepts it placidly instead of resisting it. Will this situation be ever ameliorated? This remains to be seen!

Global Warmin And Its Impact On The Middle East

During the past two decades more information have been published regarding global warming and the negative impact it will have on the Middle East, South East Asia and the eastern shores of the African continent.

According to a United Nations report ( Al Masry Al Yom 7/2/09) by 2010 global temperature might increase from 1.1 to 6.4 degrees by comparison to the period between 1980-1999. The report also reveal that this increase in temperature will speed the ice melting in the North Pole which will heighten the water level of oceans and seas. The Mediterranean seal level in particular is estimated to rise by 50 millimeters . If this projection occurs, the high water will flood 1800 square kilometers of agricultural land in the Delta region of northern Egypt. The flooding will have extremely negative consequences on Egypt's agricultural sector, the infra-structure, and the underground water reserves. Moreover, the temperature change will also increase the water evaporation of Lake Nasser in southern Egypt, as well causing cloud formation leading to heavy rain resulting in flooding.

Countries with low land should start planning for the negative outcome from high water levels of oceans and seas. Holland until the 1930s used to experience flooding from the Northern Sea due to its low level land. It built barriers which stopped the flooding of the land.

While visiting Holland on a study tour, government officials took pride showing us the barriers that prevented the flooding of low land from the North Sea. One boasting official said "God created the world , but the Dutch created Holland!"

Hopefully, Egypt and other similar countries with land below sea level learn from the Dutch experience and emulate their accomplishment.

Poverty in the Arab World

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that more than one billion people, world wide, do not have enough food for their daily supply. This represent 1 out of 6 of the world population. The report also referred to poverty in the Arab world where forty million people are experiencing shortage of food on a daily basis, i.e. 13% of the Arab world total population. Furthermore, 100 million people in the Arab countries are living below the poverty line. This is equal to one third of the total population of the Arab world.

There are a number of factors that contribute to the poverty in the Arab world:

1. The uneven distribution of wealth. The income per capita reflects a wide gap between the people. It ranges from $65 per person / year to $53,000 per person /year.

2. The corruption at all levels of government institutions which was recently reported by Transparency International (Al Jazeera.net, 11/18/09).

3. The failure of a development strategy in the agricultural sector where only 30% of the agricultural land is under cultivation.

4. The large amount of the money from the sale of oil invested by Arab governments outside the Middle East and referred to as the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF) if used in the Arab world could have created jobs for the millions of young unemployed. It is, however, invested in the USA and Western Europe. More than $ 1.282 trillion were invested in US banks and of course billions of dollars were lost as a result of the 2008 economic melt down (The Middle East magazine , October/09).

5. Unemployment in the Arab world has been estimated at an average of 15% of the labor force by the Arab Employment Organization ( Al Ahram, 11/4/09). A high percentage of the unemployed are college graduates.

This high unemployment rate is definitely the major factor which might lead to political and social unrest in the Arab world, as well a factor towards the rise of international terrorism. It is certainly a highly explosive time bomb that we all should be aware of.

Nov 19, 2009

Water Poverty Stage - Egypt

Al Ahram newspaper stated (7/19/09) that the Egyptian government has issued a report warning Egyptians about the decreasing availability of water in the near future.

The report revealed that in 1947 individual's share of water was 2600 cu. met./year. In 2003, individual's share decreased by 67% to 860 cu. met./year . It is expected that by the year 2025 individual's share will decrease to 582 cu. met./year.

According to government assessment, water consumption in 2006 was 68 billion cu. met. of water, only 64 billion cu. met. was available. Egypt's water need in 2017 is estimated to be 71.4 billion cu. met./year.

It is a well known fact that the Nile River is the major water source for Egypt. It provides the land with 55.5 billion cu. met./year. This is only 86.7% of Egypt water needs. The Egyptian government expects Egypt's share of the Nile River to drop to 80.5% of its basic needs by 2017.

The Egyptian government plans to tap the underground resources to make up for the future decrease of the Nile's water.

The government report, furthermore, revealed how water is consumed in Egypt. In 2007-2008, 72 billion cu. met. was consumed, 83.3% was used by the agricultural sector, 1.7% by the industrial sector, and 11.8% by homes and human consumption.

Despite future water shortage, the Egyptian government, by the year 2017, is planning to cultivate an additional 3.4 million feddans (acres) in order to meet the challenge of food shortage due to the continuous population increase.

The government's report did not reveal a strategy to meet the shortage of water, nor did it reveal a plan to change the traditional method of water irrigation which consumes a high percentage of water.

In an article in Al Ahram International (5/11/01), Dr. Alaa Yassin mentioned that various types of crops require different amounts of water. For instance, one feddan of sugar cane requires on the average 12,000 cu. met. of water compared to 4,000 cu. met. for one feddan of beets. Furthermore, one feddan of rice needs 9500 cu. met. of water as opposed to 4500 c. met. of water for one feddan of corn. Hence, some diversification in the types of agricultural crops, based on scientific methods, could save water for further agricultural development.

In conclusion I would like to stress the fact that new methods and new technologies for irrigation need to be implemented. Egypt does have professional experts able to meet the challenge, and create new modern irrigation techniques, based on scientific methods, that will save the consumption of water and secure Egypt's future. The sooner it is undertaken the better it will be for Egypt.

Nov 15, 2009

Depleted Uranium 'DU'

In a previous post (9/5/09), I referred to the depleted uranium 'DU' found in Iraq, specially in Felluja, as a fallout from the bombs used both times during the 1991 Gulf War, and during the 2003 Iraqi invasion. The impact on the Iraqi people as well as the American soldiers has been disastrous.

The Felluja people have witnessed ferocious battles between American forces and Iraqi insurgent groups.

The Christian Science Monitor (2/20/02) noted that 'DU' "is made from nuclear waste material and fuel. The American army used 320 tons in 1991 to destroy 4,000 Iraqi armored vehicles and swiftly concluded victory."

The Guardian newspaper (11/14/09) reported that babies born with physical defects in Felluja increased by fifteen folds. This, according to British and Iraqi medical team, is due to poisonous chemicals such as 'DU.'

Recently, Al Jazeera.net (10/30/09) stated that it has received a copy of a report written by physicians and scientists that was sent to the United Nations. The report confirmed that the number of babies born in Felluja in September 2009 was 170. Twenty four per cent of them died within a week of their birth, and 75% were born with physical defects. These figures were compared with the number of birth, in Felluja, during August 2002, which was 530, only 6 babies died within the first week after their birth, and one baby was born with physical defect.
Furthermore, in the report, the British and Iraqi medical team requested from the United Nations to investigate the high percentage of newly born babies with physical defects, and the possibility of war crimes committed by the invading forces.
It should be noted here that many American veterans have also been physically affected due to their contact with depleted uranium.

Would this report be seriously considered by the United Nations? This remains to be seen. Meanwhile the consequences of the war are going to be felt by the Iraqi people, and young American veterans for many more year to come.