riyadh skyline David Degner/Getty Images

A Sustainable Economy for the Arab World

Building a sustainable economy is an urgent imperative for policymakers, businesses, and citizens throughout the Arab world. It won’t be easy, but the region has plenty of experience overcoming even the most difficult challenges.

WASHINGTON, DC – In recent decades, millions of people in the Arab world have been lifted out of extreme poverty. But progress is now at risk of slowing, or even reversing, owing to a vicious circle of economic failure and violent disorder. To prevent such an outcome, Arab countries must move fast to build a more sustainable economy, underpinned by greater private-sector creativity and vitality, improved public services, and the creation of regional and global public goods.

The first step toward achieving this is to recognize the scale and nature of the potential barriers to success. Arab countries today are faced with slow overall GDP growth and tightening fiscal constraints. Disparities in access to education, training, and health care – partly a reflection of those fiscal constraints – exacerbate already rising inequality.

As we have seen in the region, such circumstances can fuel political polarization and violent conflict, with the concomitant displacement, loss of life, destruction of infrastructure, and staggering economic costs. While economic development is no guarantor of peace, development failures do often contribute to extremism and violence, as popular anger combines with a loss of institutional legitimacy. The existence of nearby conflicts, which can have destabilizing spillover effects, heightens the risk of unrest.

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