x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

What Mena ‘needs is a Marshall Plan’

The UAE Minister for Economy Sultan Al Mansouri yesterday said the world should put together a new Marshall Plan to help the economies of Middle East and North African countries shattered by the social and political upheaval of the Arab Spring.

The UAE Minister for Economy Sultan Al Mansouri said GCC countries were not vulnerable to the same negative forces as the rest of the region. Delores Johnson / The National
The UAE Minister for Economy Sultan Al Mansouri said GCC countries were not vulnerable to the same negative forces as the rest of the region. Delores Johnson / The National
The world should put together a new Marshall Plan to help the economies of Middle East and North African countries shattered by the social and political upheaval of the Arab Spring, the UAE Minister for Economy Sultan Al Mansouri said yesterday.

Speaking as global leaders gathered in Abu Dhabi for the opening of the World Economic Forum (WEF) summit, Mr Mansouri said: “Some have asked for an Arab bank of reconstruction and development for the region, but it should not be just Arab. It should be a global response, like the Marshall Plan put into effect by the Americans in Europe after the Second World War.

“It has to be coordinated and put together over a period of time. Some of these countries' peoples have lost trust in their own governments, and it is in the interest of the world to re-establish that trust.”

In its recently published Outlook on the Global Agenda, the WEF said the risk of social and political instability in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) was the top issue facing the world in the coming year, with income disparity and unemployment – two issues also seriously affecting the region – as the next two most serious problems.

Mr Al Mansouri said the GCC countries were not vulnerable to the same negative forces as the rest of the region.

“We have a different kind of structure here [in the GCC]. It is not fair to characterise us along with the rest of the region. We are very positive and optimistic. There is no risk of contagion. We have lived with this [the Arab Spring] for a very long time.”

He said GCC countries had a good track record of investing in and doing business with other Mena countries. “There is not a single country we have not invested in. We have taken every opportunity to improve the status of these neighbours,” he said.

Mr Al Mansouri added that the UAE economy was on track to grow by up to 4.5 per cent this year, and that the main platform of the strategic economic plan was to reduce the proportion of the economy dependent on energy revenue by a fifth, from the current 26 per cent.

Around 1,500 leaders from government, business and academia will attend the WEF summit on the global agenda, traditionally the meeting that shapes the agenda for the WEF annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

The summit will be officially opened today under the co-chairmanship of Mr Al Mansouri and Nasser Al Sowaidi, the chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development.

fkane@thenational.ae