Foreign direct investments in Arab states of the Middle East more than tripled in 2000 to $3.4 billion, but remain meager compared to overall world investment figures, a UN official said Tuesday, September 18.
"Direct foreign investment inflows in western Asia increased from about one billion dollars (in 1999) to $3.4 billion in 2000," said Munji Hamdi, an economist at the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD).
"But investments by foreign companies in western Asia still ... does not exceed 0.3 percent of the total direct foreign investment in the world and 1.4 percent of the direct foreign investment into developing countries," he said.
Hamdi was speaking at the release of an UNCTAD report on world direct foreign investment, focusing on the region of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA).
The Beirut-based ESCWA, created in 1974, is made up of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and the Palestinian Authority.
Hamdi said that "in 2000, as it has been the case before, most direct foreign investment in western Asia is in Egypt and Saudi Arabia," adding that most of the investment in the region is focused on natural resources and privatizations.
He said "new laws encouraging direct foreign investments, particularly in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon, will lead to great increases in investment inflows into the region." Hamdi told AFP that "foreign direct investments have decreased in Lebanon from $250 million in 1999 to $180 million last year due to the instability in the region.
"But the Lebanese government is making efforts to encourage foreign investors, especially in the tourism, agricultural, industrial and energy sectors," he said. — (AFP, Beirut)
© Agence France Presse 2001
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