Middle East economic growth ‘possible through peace’

World Bank report says GDP growth could increase from 3.3 percent to 7.8 percent in five years if conflicts ended.

The report said the war in Syria, combined with its spillovers to neighbouring countries, had cost $35bn in output [Reuters/Nour Fourat]
The report said the war in Syria, combined with its spillovers to neighbouring countries, had cost $35bn in output [Reuters/Nour Fourat]

The Middle East could experience steady economic growth over the next few years if regional conflicts ended, according to a World Bank report.

Lili Mottaghi, World Bank economist, said in a report released on Thursday that a peaceful solution in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen “could lead to a swift rebound in oil output allowing them to increase fiscal space, improve current account balances and boost economic growth in the medium term with positive spillovers to neighbouring countries”.

The quarterly report on the economic state of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) highlighted the heavy turmoil in the region and its weakened economic growth over the past five years.

The international financial institution estimated that the war in Syria, combined with its spillovers to neighbouring countries, had cost $35bn in output.

It also said that rebuilding Libya’s state infrastructure would cost a staggering $200bn.

RELATED: Air strikes kill dozens in Syria’s Aleppo 

The region would also experience an increase in its gross domestic product (GDP) growth from 3.3 percent to 7.8 percent over the next year five years if MENA countries transitioned to “full-fledged” democracies, according to the report.

Phillippe Fargues, the director of the Migration Policy Centre at the European University Institute, said he agreed that peace could bring economic growth.

King of Jordan Abdullah II speaks at the ‘Supporting Syria and the Region’ conference in London, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. [Dan Kiktwood/AP]

“There is a cost to war, security and conflict. And that cost is enormous in terms of infrastructure that is demolished, etc. So they are right, if peace comes to the Middle East we may expect that economic growth starting again,” Fargues told Al Jazeera.

Syria’s civil war has resulted in the displacement of more than 4.5 million refugees to neighbouring countries of Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon and Iraq.

On Thursday, more than $10bn in aid to help refugees affected by the five-year-old conflict was pledged at a “Supporting Syria and the Region” conference in London.

At the conference, Jordan’s King Abdullah discussed his country’s pressures in dealing with an increasing number of Syrian refugees.

The UN estimates that there are roughly 635,000 registered Syrian refugees in Jordan, but Abdullah has previously said that his country has taken in 1.4 million.

“Looking into the eyes of my people and seeing the hardship and distress they carry, I must tell you we have reached our limit,” Abdullah said.

Last year, a 2015 report published by the UNHCR said that Jordanians were losing job opportunities due to a new market of low-skilled jobs taken up by Syrian refugees who were more willing to accept lower wages than Jordan’s workers.

READ MORE: Time for an aid revolution for Syrians and others 

The report argued that “many of these jobs could have been available to Jordanians, particularly youth, if they were not occupied by Syrian refugees”.

Fargues acknowledged that the refugees would not return to Syria “overnight” due to the ongoing nature of the conflict.

He said that if the international community gave more aid to countries like Jordan and Lebanon, economic pressures might be eased while simultaneously helping refugees.

“It has to put more money in the economies of these countries to create employment because that is your link of stability now. That will create public expenses in these countries and should result in a positive impact.”

Source: Al Jazeera


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