Throughout history and since the dawn of civilization more than five thousand years ago, Egypt has played a major role in the Middle East region. Egypt’s role in the Arab world is very critical politically, economically and demographically. Egypt has the largest population size in the region, with over 85 million people. Its annual population increase is around 1.3 million people per year, which is nearly more than one fourth of the population of the U.A.E. However, the United Arab Emirates GNI is more than 25 times that of Egypt, which is $2,070 per person per year. The point I am trying to bring to the attention of the readers is the fact that the distribution of wealth in the Arab world reflects a wide gap between the rich and poor states.
It is unfortunate that Arab states with the largest populations are among the poorest in the region. Egypt, which I consider to be the heart of the Arab world, has recently opened its doors to a new political chapter of democracy and freedom, which has begun to impact all Arab states. In order for that revolution to continue its success, Egypt needs economic investments from especially the well to do Arab states in the Gulf region. Economic investment is very important for the Egyptian economy, because it is needed to create new jobs for the millions of unemployed young people. Furthermore, it has been reported that the Egyptian Prime Minister Esam Sharaf visited the Arab Gulf region to assure their governments Egypt’s support of their securities. Also, he is trying to encourage the governments and well-to-do individuals and companies to consider economic investment in Egypt.
Additional economic investment by these states is very important to turn the economic trend back since its down turn as a result of the 25th of January Revolution. Unfortunately, it has been reported that the United Arab Emirates, which is not included in the prime minister’s visit of the Gulf region, is pursuing a new negative political policy towards Egypt. It was announced that the UAE government is refusing to extend the work permits of Egyptian workers due to Egypt’s recent policy of prosecuting its former president and its new policy towards Iran. (almasry-alyoum.com, 4/25/2011).
If such news is correct, those responsible for initiating that policy are wrong. First of all, the Egyptian foreign minister made it clear that the Gulf region is a “red line” for any foreign interference. The establishment of diplomatic relations with the Iran will discourage it from any hostile attempts toward its neighbors. Second, the UAE should encourage and accept more Egyptian workers instead of terminating their visas. If the Egyptian economy and political stability is threatened, it will also impact the rest of the Arab world as well.
It has been reported that more than $2.6 trillion is available in Arab banks, which netted a profit of over $35 billion last year (2010). Also, the report revealed that the number of private accounts in Arab banks has exceeded $15 trillion as of 2010.
The president of Arab banks and financial institutions, Mr. Adnan A. Yousef, stated that new reform policies are needed to allow and encourage Arab investments in light of the new changes taking place in the Arab world. He further pointed out that the Arab world needs to create more than 18 million new jobs during the next ten years to meet the needs of young people entering the job market. (Aljazeera.net, 4/19/2011).
In previous years, Arab governments, especially the oil producing ones, in addition to wealthy individuals, directed their investments towards Western societies and the U.S. in particular. It is understandable that the government corruption in the Arab world in general discourages foreign investments.
Since the corrupt regime in Egypt was thrown out, hopefully it will encourage investors to direct their financial investments toward Egypt, which will pay off of them and the Egyptian people in the long run.