x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 23 November 2017

A 2013 Marshall Plan will boost Mena nations

A Marshall Plan for the Mena region would help countries like Syria, Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan to boost their economies.

When the UAE Minister for Economy, Sultan Al Mansouri, called for a new version of the Marshall Plan to rebuild the Mena region after the ructions of the Arab Spring, his example was well-chosen: the US-funded scheme to rebuild Europe after the end of the Second World War is an archetype of bold thinking leading to dramatic success.

Importantly, the parallels between Europe in 1947 and many countries in this region now go much deeper than wrecked infrastructure and displaced populations blighting economic prospects.

The real genius of the Marshall Plan was that it was no act of selfless philanthropy.

Not only did it boost Europe’s sluggish recovery but it also provided an outlet for America’s undamaged but now underutilised manufacturing capacity. Most of the money that was expended flowed straight back to the US.

For a cost of $15 billion over four years– $160bn (Dh588bn) in 2013 dollars – the economies of much of western Europe were shaped resolutely on the American model. And for good measure, the appeal of communism was significantly diminished.

But how good an analogy is the Marshall Plan for Arab Spring countries? There is no question that when Syria finally emerges from its long and bloody civil war, it will be as devastated as Germany was in 1945 and will need vast amounts of assistance.

Similarly, what it and the other nations like Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Jordan desperately crave is stability and economic growth so that their citizens can enjoy a sense of economic opportunity and the ability to get ahead – the absence of which were the key factors that fuelled the uprisings in many of those countries.

This is exactly what a modern-day Marshall Plan for the Mena region would provide.

There is one dramatic difference. In 1947, the US provided all the funding for the Marshall Plan. Mr Al Mansouri is absolutely correct when he said the 2013 version, if adopted, must be an effort by all the major nations, including those of the Gulf.

But just as in 1947, everyone should reap the benefits that follow.