H E Yousuf Hussein Kamal addressing the 14th Arab Businessmen’s Forum in Doha yesterday.
DOHA: Oil-rich GCC states had a staggering $800bn in revenues last year due to higher crude prices in the global markets, says Qatar’s Minister of Finance and Economy.
H E Yousuf Hussein Kamal said in his opening address at the 14th Arab Businessmen’s Forum here yesterday that the GCC countries would have look to use the above income on increased public spending. He said the main challenges facing the region result from their lower budgets and their need to spend increasingly to help dilute social tensions.
Talking of the Forum, he said it was being held at an “exceptional” time, after the Arab people revolted against injustice and inequality. The Arab spring continues to change the political landscape of the region, which is putting world spotlight on it.
The Minister said that International Monetary Fund (IMF) lowered its economic growth forecast (GDP growth rate at fixed prices) for the Arab world for 2012 from 4.2 percent to 3.6 percent.
Middle East’s oil-producing countries witnessed economic growth in 2011, while the opposite happened in the case of oil-importing countries in the region.
There are three main factors that explain the IMF lowering its GDP growth forecast for the Arab states: rising oil prices that are impeding growth in oil-importing countries, the eurozone debt crisis which has affected economies all over the world, and the confusion created due to the changes being made by the Arab revolutions.
The Egyptian and Tunisian tourism industry has suffered losses that are estimated at a huge $10bn, and this has been one of the main negative impacts of the revolution on their economies.
In Tunisia, the Minister said the economy was heading towards stability. As for other countries, the journey of political transformations remains long, which is causing foreign investment inflows to wait until investors are sure of new governments that can take action.
The Minister noted that the Arab world, which has 400 million inhabitants, produces almost the same quantity of commodities (excluding oil) Switzerland produces, whose population is less than eight million.