Population growth is the biggest threat to stability in the Middle East today, according to a new report from MEED released this week.
In an exclusive survey of more than 200 business and political leaders in the Middle East and North Africa, MEED found that the biggest challenge facing the region’s governments is providing employment opportunities for the Middle East’s fast growing labour force.
Whilst the last 50 years has seen the Middle East experience unprecedented growth in wealth, with record levels of investment in infrastructure, industry, technology, education and health, The 50:50 Report highlights the region’s population boom - which has seen the number of people rise to 377 million today from 162 million in 1957. By 2030 it is estimated to reach 524 million.
MEED’s editor-in-chief Sean Brierley, says: “Our research indicates that, although Middle East economies have experienced an unprecedented boom and an enormous increase in absolute wealth, the population explosion in key economies such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Iran has meant that per capita wealth is being suppressed.
“This has had a knock-on effect in terms of the extra demands on power and water, healthcare and education. In many ways, the region is becoming a victim of its own success.”
The report, which is a milestone publication, looks at how the Middle East has developed over the past 50 years and what the region’s economies may look like in 50 years’ time. It highlights the implications of the sharp increase in life expectancy in the region – in 1957 it was 44 years and today it is 68 years – and a massive decrease in infant mortality – in 1956 it was 176 per 1,000 infants but by 2007 it has decreased to 39 per 1,000.
"The region's governments are alive to the threats that a massive population explosion bring. In response they have embarked on the greatest economic reform programme ever seen in the Middle East as they seek to lay down the foundations for long-term economic growth and political stability,” says Brierley. “Boosted by high oil prices, the Middle East, and particularly the Gulf, has entered a new era that is seeing it emerge as a major economic bloc."
The report advocates the continued liberalisation and diversification of the region’s economies. The survey appears in The MEED 50:50 Report, which is published this week to commemorate MEED’s 50th anniversary. It includes the views of MEED’s journalists as well as politicians, business leaders, decision makers and commentators.
© 2007 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )