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Summit must focus on people’s aspirations: Saudi minister

Economic dimension of of the Arab upheavals cannot be ignored, Saud Al Faisal says

Image Credit: AFP
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr (C-L) and his Saudi counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal (C-R) smile as they attend the meeting of the Arab Foreign Ministers on the eve of the third session of the Arab Economic, Social and Development Summit held in Riyadh on January 19, 2013. Saudi Arabia is due to host the Arab Economic summit for the leaders on January 21 and 22.
Gulf News

Riyadh: A two-day economic summit that opens on Monday in Saudi Arabia must break with tradition and tackle people’s aspirations in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings, the Saudi foreign minister said.

“Our meeting should not be mired in routine,” Prince Saud Al Faisal said at a meeting on Saturday to prepare for the third Arab Economic and Social Development Summit.

“The Arab world has faced these past two years upheavals of a political dimension... but we cannot ignore their economic dimension,” he added.

The minister stressed that the summit must tackle “the problems and issues that concern the lives of our people. We must meet the aspirations of the people”.

Poverty, unemployment and social inequalities were among the causes that triggered a Tunisian uprising in late 2010 that later spread to Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.

Experts have warned the Arab world risks losing the fragile gains made by the uprisings, which brought to an end decades of iron-fisted rule by leaders in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

A recent economic report noted that unemployment in 2011 stood at 16 per cent in Arab countries where 17 million people out of 300 million are jobless.

At the same time, inter-Arab investments stood at a mere $25 billion across the region.

The summit in oil-rich Saudi Arabia is expected to discuss the amendment of an Arab convention on investments in a bid to bolster the role of the private sector, the minister said.

The meeting would also examine means of drawing up new financial resources to support impoverished Arab states, he added.

David Lipton, first deputy managing director of the International Monetary Fund told Tunisian businessmen in November that Arab countries in transition should push for reforms, encourage investment, boost productivity and create jobs.

A World Bank-Gallup poll survey published on November 27 stressed the regime was in dire need of “social safety nets” to satisfy the socio-economic demands of the Arab Spring.