x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

An Arab Marshall Plan would help economies

A digest of commentaries from the Arab press

"Most Arab countries, especially non-oil ones, faces immense economic and development challenges that are no less serious than the outstanding political crises," commented Dr Musa Shtewi in a commentary for the Jordanian newspaper Al Ghad.

The dangers inherent in this deep economic depression lie in its social and political consequences. One of its immediate offshoots was the Tunisian revolution and the continuing popular protests across the Arab world.

Aspects of the economic crisis differ from one country to the other, but they are the result of a traditional bloated economic structure which has not adapted to the emerging market. As a result, governments failed to motivate national economies and, in turn, are unable to attend to the increasing needs of their populations.

Implementation of austerity schemes have widened the gap between various segments of society, and increased poverty. This is coupled with the near absence of social policies, which has exacerbated unemployment among youth, hence threatening social and economic stability.

With a lack of resources, no individual country can solve the crisis alone. So, there is a need of a more structured system similar to the Marshal Plan in the Arab world to provide stable funding for projects that create sustainable development.

Iraq is no longer a source of worry

In a commentary for the pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al Awsat, the Iraqi government spokesman, Ali al Dabbagh, wrote that the great concern over the future of the newly formed government came from Iraqi people who have paid dearly for years because of the political unrest that the country has endured.

Iraqis hoped various competing political forces would reach a common ground that satisfies their minimum requirements and spares them any interference of regional powers. Fortunately, politicians proved to be rational when they sat down and managed to establish what is called a government of national partnership.

"Hopefully now the partnership government will be involved in genuine action that will put an end to the negative impression that this team is dominated by one major political component.

"We are now facing a new situation that we have to seize wisely. Internally, no one should dominate the decision-making process, and no party should disrupt the course of politics. The stakes are high for everyone."

Arabs have grown less worried about Iraq turning into a backyard for Iran. Iranians, for their part, feel Iraq is not a threat anymore to their national security, even though there are more than 200,000 security forces. Growing trust in Iraq is strongly expressed by the unanimous decision of the Arab League to hold the next Arab Summit in Baghdad.

Morocco addresses popular concerns

"In an apparently preemptive measure, the Moroccan government sought to address the pressing issues of unemployment among graduates and high food prices," reported Mahmoud Maarouf in the London-based newspaper Al Quds al Arabi.

The spokesman Khalid Naciri said that authorities were engaged seriously to find a solution to unemployed graduates.

"We plan to solve the problem through dialogue and the involvement of various stakeholders, including the unemployed. We are very determined to address the issue together."

In almost an everyday scene, unemployed graduates protest in front of parliament. Most of the time, the police do not intervene to disperse them unless they come too close to the premises.

Referring to the impact of the latest incidents in Tunisia on the protests led by the unemployed in Rabat, Mr Naciri said that the Moroccan government looks beyond that by trying to find a solution to the demands of not only protesters but all the population. "We consider these demands legitimate, because Morocco has been for long time engaged in a process of democratisation and consolidation of the rule of law."

On another note, the government pledged to monitor prices of basic staples in order to keep them affordable to all regardless of world market fluctuations. The aim is to keep the purchasing power of citizens intact.

The root of Lebanon's crisis is sectarianism

"People tend to follow weather forecasts before heading to work and they prepare their daily schedule according. But in Lebanon, they do it differently," observed Hassan Younes in a comment article for the Qatar-based newspaper Al Watan.

Instead, Lebanese follow news reports before going to work and they act according to "political conditions".

"Lebanon today is like a brakeless vehicle moving on a bumpy road. Sooner or later, it will hit something and break down. The Lebanese can no longer blame foreign powers as usual. If disaster happens, it will be because of short-sighted politicians, who see no further than the close interests of their sects.

"Few options are left for Lebanese, if dividing the country into fiefdoms is the only way to defuse the situation. In fact, the division probably satisfies the aspirations of certain leaders, especially those who fought the civil war between 1975 and 1990, when they committed horrific atrocities."

Apparently, there is no solution to the Lebanese crisis, and it has nothing to do with the International Tribunal for Lebanon. The Lebanese are likely to be engaged in a new crisis, even if, let us suppose, the tribunal issue is over.

The cause of crises in Lebanon lies rather in the very sectarian fabric of its political system.

* Digest compiled by Mostapha El Mouloudi