Can Arab world economies achieve what politics couldn’t?
Arabs are either traumatized or are in a state of indifference that has developed over a period of time
We Arabs have been in a state of loss and despair since late 2010. If it is not war, bloodshed and starvation, we encounter instability and insecurity. Even the luckiest among us are at the least worried about developments. It would be no exaggeration to say that all Arabs are either traumatized or are in a state of indifference that has developed over a period of time owing to their inability to keep pace with events they can’t figure out.
A complex set of political and military realities face our region today. The region has turned into a domain for settling scores and crises, one after another, both homegrown and borrowed. International interference in the Arab region, which is either passive as in the case with the U.S. or destructive as in Russia’s case, has had its impact on the Arab world’s relations and on its historically preserved alliances.
It is difficult nowadays for an Arab state to build an alliance with another without taking into account the geopolitical risks involved. Just like Arab citizens, its politicians seem bewildered as well. They haven’t fully come to terms with the lack of interest demonstrated by the U.S. in the region and are unable to deal with the Russians who have been on a different trajectory.
As a result, Arabs look at the world map redrawn based on economic alliances, whether in Europe, Latin America, the Indian subcontinent, or in China and Russia. They look outward and close their doors on each other to avoid further conflict.
However, this approach has proved to be a failure especially with the region’s woes surpassing the capabilities of a single state to address. Putting aside the complex politics and sensitive remapping of alliances, the Arab world has one option to restore hope for its desperate and traumatized citizens – economic opportunities.
Before the so-called Arab Spring surfaced, inter-Arab gatherings used to conclude with large Arab corporations signing on the dotted lines for mega project in other brotherly Arab countries. This would boost the economy and create jobs. This doesn’t seem to be happening anymore. Nowadays, even letters of intent or memoranda of understanding, for pan-Arab projects, are not signed for fear of political conflict and unrest.
Even during business gatherings within the Arab region, such as the World Economic Forum in Jordan, politics continues to be in focus. In the Forum’s 2015 edition, for instance, almost all the spotlight was on the situation in Syria and Iraq and the peace process.
The Arab world’s private sector also seems to have lost its spirit of adventure and independence. The sensitive remapping of alliances within the region has also left a deep impact on the Arab companies’ pragmatism in terms of investment and joint ventures.
The overindulgence in politics and an atmosphere of suspicion has made issues such as sustainable development and joint ventures either a luxury or taboo. The people of the Arab world seems to have been forgotten between an extremely cautious private sector and governments concerned with security.
It is obvious that there is a need to enhance economic opportunities in the Arab world. In the wake of its troubling politics, a heartening scene would be that of two Arab leaders, or more, signing on dotted lines for major cooperation agreements between their countries for the benefit of their youth or may be a group of Arab states announcing an economic alliance of some kind such as the EU, even at the micro level, to serve their mutual interests.
What we must realize is that it is the economy and not politics that makes the EU still hold and the U.S. seeking relations with Cuba. These countries have seized opportunities and put aside their political differences for the sake of the welfare of their citizens. Let economies of the Arab world achieve what politics and armies fail to.
Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via email@example.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2