Monday, May 01, 2006

The Economies of the Middle East :: Buzzle

Saudi Arabia managed to produce a budget surplus only once since 1982. Per capita income in the kingdom plunged from $26,000 in 1981 to $7000 today. Higher oil prices may well continue throughout 2003, further masking the calamitous state of the region's economies. But this would amount to merely postponing the inevitable.

Arab countries are not integrated into the world economy. It is possibly the only part of the globe, bar Africa, to have entirely missed the trains of globalization and technological progress. Charlene Barshefsky was United States Trade Representative from 1997 to 2001. In a recent column published by the New York Times, she noted that: "Muslim countries in the region trade less with one another than do African countries, and much less than do Asian, Latin American or European countries. This reflects both high trade barriers ... and the deep isolation Iran, Iraq and Libya have brought on themselves through violence and support for terrorist groups ... The Middle East still depends on oil. Today, the United States imports slightly more than $5 billion worth of manufactured goods and farm products from the 22 members of the Arab League, Afghanistan and Iran combined - or about half our value-added imports from Hong Kong alone."

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