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French Version

Arab world seeks to increase foreign direct investment

The entire Arab world only receives one-third of foreign direct investment (FDI) for a developing region of comparable size, an Arab minister said Monday, at a conference at the Dead Sea, Jordan. Speaking at the opening of the first MENA investment ministerial meeting, Sharif Ali Zubi, Jordanian industry and trade minister, underlined the need to implement wide ranging reforms to attract more FDI.

According to the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development's 2003 figures, 21 Arab countries received less than $9 billion out of a world market of $660 billion of FDI inflows, Zubi said, adding that competition for attracting FDI is increasing with each country trying to diversify its products and services in order to attract more investment.

"Our region has never been in more need of reform than it is today," he said adding that the deficit in human capabilities, unemployment as well as poverty and illiteracy have reached alarming rates.

"Only 0.6 percent of Arabs use the Internet, and spending on research and development is one seventh the world average." he said.

Organized by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and Jordan Investment Board, the meeting is an occasion for policy makers and private sector representatives to discuss ways to create a more attractive environment for private enterprise in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region.

The meeting follows more than a year of discussion and analysis of the MENA-OECD investment program on governance and investment for development launched last year.

The secretary general of the OECD, Donald Johnston said that "despite the challenges, the region has witnessed significant progress in many areas."

"Ministers will recognize the significant progress already made over the past year and give strategic direction for work in the year ahead," Johnston said.

"The momentum for reform is growing in many MENA countries, and that provides opportunities for all regional partners," he added.

Johnston elaborated on the OECD investment program's importance in helping Arab countries identify investment opportunities, build confidence among investors, support the creation of an efficient institutional and legal infrastructure and promote business integrity and government transparency.

The meeting focused on various topics related to investment in the region. Four panels discussed promoting investment, enhancing the image of the region, tax framework for investment, diversification and job creation, and improving corporate governance.

Beirut,02 13 2006
Raed El Rafei
The Daily Star
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