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Why a road map is necessary to chart the course of change

Report cites importance of ensuring targets are mutually beneficial and must combine reforms aimed at politics, economics and transparency in the various countries

Gulf News

Dubai: The Arab Spring Report recommends that the Arab League and the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) must drive the reform process internally with coordinated external support at this critical juncture in history.

A medium- to long-term road map is required and should observe that benefits will only trickle down to the public when changes are made to political freedoms, economic equality, transparency and media across the Arab world, it said.

However, it also points out that international assistance has fallen well short of expectations. "The support promised by the G8 in Deauville in May 2011 has to a large extent not materialised.

"And the impact of the $100 billion (Dh367 billion) provided by the G20 will be ‘trickle down' at best, with the risk that those who took to the streets see little direct benefit over the short to medium term," the report says

Loans from the G8 will only stabilise the macro-economic situation in a small number of target states and will not deal with the social crisis being faced, it added, with most support going to governments rather than NGOs or civil society bodies.

The international community must focus its efforts on support for socio-political transformation and security reform first on a country-by-country basis, coordinating any support through the reform oriented members of the Arab League and GCC, it suggested.

Interests

The report poses an important question: "Where could G20 and UN interests best align in support, given that Western and Middle Eastern political priorities will not always [and should not always] converge?"

It suggests several strategies that can assure that targets are met to mutual benefit:

  • Stable, inclusive and sustainable economies based on solid regional and global integration
  • Planning for long-term economic diversification from oil, which requires a strong private sector, civil society, legislation supporting business and capital investment rights.
  • Homegrown and open socio-political frameworks that adapt the democratic process to the Arab world.
  • The report also lists extensive strategy points for international intervention that support national development strategies:
  • Economic support: Macroeconomic stabilisation is needed so governments can offset production losses that affect employment and public revenues. Investments are needed where broad-scale infrastructure damage occurred and oil production disrupted so that the industry can "bounce forward." Fiscal stimulus should foster long-term transition objectives with achievable benchmarks.
  • Economic diversification: Encourage private sector ownership, reduce oil dependence, promote job creation and streamline bloated public sectors. Address the weak investment and capital protection laws.
  • Redistribution of wealth: Address social injustice, relieve absolute poverty and reduce the strain on welfare budgets. This will spur economic diversification, "given that an economy of corporate giants will fail unless small to medium enterprises are central to side stream investments."
  • G20 and UN support in the region is key to long-term political health in the Middle East because an "oil only club" is not viable and "private hydrocarbon interests" should not dominate regional and political cooperation. Investment opportunities exist in Information Technology, banking, telecoms and commodities, but require stronger cooperation and mutual investment mechanisms through the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organisation.
  • Youth Development: A reform programme must link education with employment sectors and include basic mother and child support, nutrition and health care.
  • Public wage bills must be reduced. An overly large public sector that accounts for disproportionate employment is linked to corruption and economic mismanagement. Archaic civil service administrative systems must be modernised. "Any road map of corrective measures needs to be reflected in national policy and spending," it said.
  • Promote better basic service delivery, for better public perception of the government and better stability.
  • International supporters should avoid short-term promises in countries where regimes change. Overnight fixes, over-support and one-size fits all models will not work. International support should build open media for a thriving civil society.
  • Financing model for transition: It is important in this case to avoid increasing debt burdens and over-commitment of public finances to appease dissent.
  • Given the capital wealth of the Middle East, countries are more likely to get support from regional funds to support structural change.
  • Create funds co-managed by national governments and the UN or World Bank dedicated to economic development and human rights.

The road to change

Predictions on the outcome of the Arab uprisings are fallible, the report notes.

After the adrenalin of victory subsides and global interest diminishes, nations will be left with hard governance, economic and political choices.

"The first challenge will be to establish common ground for change both within the countries at the heart of turbulence and with the watching world.

The greater challenge will be to set a clear direction for the long work ahead and then to stay on course," it says.

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