At the World Economic Forum in January, Majid Jafar, the CEO of Crescent Petroleum, called for leaders at the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos to place the economic stability high on their list of priorities.
Majid Jafar said, “The Arab Spring has now clearly turned into a winter of discontent. In parallel with all the political efforts, we need quick and urgent economic action to address the issue of high youth unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region. Insufficient economic growth in the region has led to massive youth unemployment, in some areas more than 60%. This is turning into a demographic time-bomb. The recent fall in the oil price is also a warning that the region cannot be over-reliant on energy resources for GDP growth. We must create long-term sustainable economic growth. Employing our youth is the key to unlocking our true natural resource. We cannot achieve political stability without economic stability.”
One scheme Jafar suggests could address the issues around youth unemployment is the Arab Stabilization Plan (ASP). This is a policy initiative for the region that would promote infrastructure investment and create jobs. The proposal, which takes its inspiration from the US-led Marshall Plan that was used to rebuild post-war Europe. The plan would prioritize infrastructure projects on a national level and would help with the economy in countries like Egypt, Jordan, Yemen, Tunisia and Iraq where, more than seven years after the Saddam Hussein was removed, the country’s infrastructure remains in tatters.
Majid Jafar explained that “The MENA Region is currently going through changes that are unprecedented in the last century. In many cases the region has failed to build national identities let alone a regional one, failed to build inclusive and stable institutions, and above all failed to build private-sector driven competitive economies. There is capital, but the region needs a focused multinational effort to create regional trust and direct it into long-term infrastructure investments. This will create employment and sustain economic competitiveness.”