In 1998, the Arab world’s economy contracted, internal debt rose, imports exceeded exports. Furthermore the UAE Al-Ittihad newspaper reported that the region is home to more than 60 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves and has a nearly 100-million-strong workforce.
The combined 1998 GDP of the Arab countries is estimated at $589 billion and average per capita income at $2,182 in current prices, according to a report issued by the Arab League, the Arab Social and Economic Development Fund. The report showed that the overall Arab economy contracted 2.5% in 1998, versus a positive growth rate of 3.6% in the previous year. The main cause of the contraction was the roughly 35 percent plummeting of oil prices.
In the same year, industrialized countries reported a 2.2% positive growth and developing countries a 3.3% expansion. The same study revealed that the Arab world exports totaled $134 billion in 1998, or 2.4 percent of the world’s total exports. Imports from the same region reached $147.5 billion, or 2.6 percent of the world’s total.
Other findings of the report that focused on 1998 include:
1 . Aggregated internal debt of the Arab countries has been rising over the last few years. In 1998, it totaled $212 billion, constituting 42.5% of these countries’ commutative GDP that year.
2 . Arab securities markets plunged 25%.
3 . The Arab world’s population reached 270 million, or 4.4% of the total world population.
4 . The Arab labor force totaled 97 million workers.
5 . Arab countries possessed up to 61.5% of the world's total petroleum reserves and up to 21.4% of world's total gas reserves. These countries also produced up to 28.3% of the world's total crude oil production and up to 13.9% of the world's total natural gas production.
6 . The total geographic area of Arab countries totaled 1.4 billion hectares (14.2 million square kilometers), according to the Arab Monetary Fund and OPEC estimates. This is equal to 10.2% of the world's overall area.
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