Jordanian official says Arab unrest causing $500 million a week capital flight from Middle East


The spread of anti-government civil unrest in the Arab region is causing capital flight of up to $500 million a week, Jordanian Finance Minister Mohammed Abu Hammour said on Thursday at an Arab banking conference in Rome.

“There is capital flight. Five hundred million dollars a week are leaving the Arab world. Tourism is falling, foreign direct investment is falling,” Mr. Hammour said, according to AFP.

“Economic development is lagging. We need to guarantee job opportunities. This is a huge challenge...We need five million new jobs every year but we have only been able to generate three million jobs a year,” he said.

The amount of money that left the Arab region since the outbreak of political unrest was estimated at more than $30 billion in the three months to April, according to Al Hayat newspaper citing cited banking sources.

The figure excluded funds that have moved from the East and North Africa to the Gulf States, in the form of deposits and short-term investments. Those funds have been estimated at between $5 billion and $40 billion.

Mr. Hammour called for greater economic integration between Arab countries, greater assistance to small and medium-sized enterprises and development of the private sector as ways to improve the economic outlook for the region, AFP reported.

The civil unrest had spread to the Kingdom of Jordan, but protests were mostly against the government, not the monarch.

The immediate response of Jordanian King Abdullah II Bin Al Hussein was to dismiss the previous government, and announce a $169 million plan to reduce price increases and unemployment.

Mr. Hammour was taking part in the International Arab Banking Summit organized by the Union of Arab Banks with senior bankers and central bank governors to discuss the implications of political upheaval in the region, AFP reported.

(Eman El-Shenawi, a writer at Al Arabiya English, can be reached at: [email protected])