06/01 International News - Focus on the Middle East
Cyprus Economy Remains StrongAccording to a report released by the European Commission in late April, economic growth in Cyprus is expected to remain strong in 2001 and 2002, despite a weaker international environment. However, economic growth is expected to be more restrained in 2001 compared to recent years, and fiscal policy will remain tight as authorities strive to reach medium-term fiscal deficit objectives.
Growth in 2002 is expected to recover to previous levels, the report states. Private consumption is expected to return to the higher growth rate enjoyed in 2000, and the recovery in fixed investment is expected to increase. However, the report also points out that Cyprus’ long-term growth potential depends on its ability to limit its dependence on tourism and diversify into other service-related activities.
Saudi Arabia Continues Efforts to Enter WTOSaudi Arabian officials met with delegates from the European Union this spring to discuss the kingdom’s efforts to join the World Trade Organization (WTO). Saudi Arabia has been striving for years to gain membership to the trade body, which it sees as vital to diversifying its energy-led economy. So far, it is the only Gulf Arab state that has not joined the WTO. The kingdom has blamed its delayed entry into the WTO on unclear and inflexible trade rules.
According to Saudi Arabia Commerce Minister Osama Bin Jaafar Faqih, the kingdom has made substantial progress on its WTO bid since January. Saudi Arabia has taken several steps toward liberalizing its economy, recently issuing a new investment law that allows foreigners for the first time to own projects and related property.
Jordan Unveils Economic Reform ProgramThe government of Jordan recently announced that it will implement a four-year reform program aimed at reducing unemployment and poverty in the kingdom. Jordan’s unemployment rate is estimated to be around 25%, and 14.5% of the population is said to be poverty-stricken. The program, which is slated to begin in 2002, will include a revision of economic relations between Jordan and other Arab countries.
Arab Countries to Establish Free-Trade ZoneThe foreign ministers of Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan met in May to discuss establishing a free-trade zone among their countries. Each of the countries is tied with the other three through bilateral free-trade deals. The countries hope that establishing a four-country zone will further boost trade and economic ties.
New Transportation Network to Span ESCWAA regional transportation network proposed by several Middle Eastern Arab countries could make doing business between these countries much easier in the coming years. Ministers from Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the Palestinian Authority recently signed an accord that provides for open-ended works by each country to develop an integrated network of roads, railways, seaports and airports across the 13 member states of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), including Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Bahrain, the UAE and the Palestinian Autority.
According to the UN Information Center, the network will “promote trade exchange and fluid traffic goods among countries of the region as a prerequisite to achieving regional integration, as one of the main objectives behind ESCWA’s establishment in 1974.”