Arab countries must invest in education to prevent their unemployed youth falling prey to radicalism and being left behind in today's competitive world, the Prime Minister has said. The Arab world has failed to make structural reforms in education or create sufficient work opportunities, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, who is also Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, wrote in an editorial in The Wall Street Journal yesterday entitled "Education vs Extremism".
With unemployment already at 15 per cent, the Middle East needs to create 80 million new jobs over the next five years "just to keep apace of our demographics" in a region with the fastest growing labour force in the world, the editorial said. "These increasingly restive youths are particularly vulnerable to those who would preach radicalism and hostility to the West, especially the US," the Prime Minister wrote.
Sixty five million adults in the Arab world are illiterate, two-thirds of them women, and more than 10m Arab children are not enrolled in school, a situation which the ruler described as a "monumental waste of human capacity". Unless they invest in education, Arab countries "are in danger of being left behind in a relentlessly competitive world", he said. Greater transparency in governance, a stronger rule of law, and more independent institutions of justice are necessary for Arab countries to create a better investment climate and stronger policies in education and economics, he said.
Instead of investing in these areas, Middle Eastern governments too often give priority to defence budgets, which Sheikh Mohammed described as "recklessness that has cost Arabs decades in lost development." The total expenditure on conflicts in the Middle East, the world's most militarised region, has exceeded $3 trillion (Dh11.01 trillion) over the past 60 years. Sheikh Mohammed made his comments ahead of Barack Obama's speech in Egypt, where the US president addressed relations between his country and the Muslim world. Arabs, many of whom have been alienated by American foreign policy in recent years, appreciate Mr Obama's decision to give a major speech in an Islamic country, he said.
The Prime Minister yesterday met in Dubai with King Abdullah of Jordan where the leaders discussed Arab and international efforts on the Middle East peace process and bilateral relations. WAM, the state news agency, said the visiting head of state was concluding a two-day visit during which he also met with Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi.