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UNDP to Arab World: Make Stuff, Not War

Generally speaking, the UN gets low points for shock value on the Arab Human Development report it released today, the gist of which can be reduced to war = insecurity = bad for business. But Chapter 5, the economy section, deserves a look for two big reasons.

Reason A: The GDP Rollercoaster Ride

If there were ever any question as to the extent of the MENA region's volatility, this should pretty much clear it up. Just look at those leaps! But still, after all the intense ups and downs of the multi-decade roller coaster ride, the region's per capita economic growth has hardly changed at all since 1980. Not good.

Reason B: The Backward Slide

Not only has economic growth in the Arab world been highly erratic, the authors conclude. According to their analysis:

Emphasis there is mine. When I interviewed a Lebanese political economist earlier this summer, he described how intensely the Dubai-inspired real estate boom had transformed Beirut. Even in the midst of battles with Israel in 2006, he said, the cranes and backhoes were still chugging away. But he bemoaned the lack of any export-worthy productive capacity in Lebanon. "We don't know how to make anything," he told me. "We don't know what we're good at." Neither does the rest of the Arab world, it seems.

To me, that's what makes initiatives like Injaz so important. Originally started in Jordan, the group was profiled by Frontline World last month holding an entrepreneurship competition in Egypt, which has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. In an area where optimism and productivity are often hard to come by, their work is a breath of fresh air (and good entertainment, to boot).

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