Enriching the Economic Future of the Middle East [Archives:2006/917/Opinion]

January 2 2006

Hassan Al-Haifi
Doha, Qatar. No one can ignore the important role that Qatar is attempting, rather successfully to play in enhancing regional integration in the Middle East and this is not by merely making proclamations or issuing statements. The fact is that the State of Qatar, especially over the last decade and a half, has taken concrete steps towards encouraging the greater cohesion of the Arab states and trying to find a framework by which the region can easily find its proper niche within the international community as a viable geographical bloc that can work towards enhancing the welfare of the constituents of the different countries that make up the region.

The Conference for the Economic Enrichment of the Middle East (from 29th January ot 31st of January 2002, in Doha Qatar) included participants coming from all over the world. The official inauguration was highlighted by statements coming from HRH the Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Al-Thani, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Qatar and Former President William Clinton of the United States, which signaled the significance of this Conference not only from a regional perspective, but also from an international perspective. The Qatari Foreign Minister stressed the need for cooperation between the states in the region to exploit the common grounds and denominators between the different states in the region, to overcome the obstacles that prevent the cohesion of the region and to energize the political will needed to bring the states of the region together.

President Clinton pointed out the significance of the region from an international point of view as the major source for energy and that opportunities exist for not only furthering the development of existing natural resources that are used in the energy sector, but also that the available investment resources provided by oil can be used to further develop alternative sources of energy. Mr. Clinton also emphasized that political stability is essential to any enhancement of development and regional cohesion. He pointed out that settlement of the many difficult regional problems, such as the Middle East conflict, will go along way towards improving the chances for development and regional integration.

The Conference also encompassed different workshops that dealt with various aspects of development and regional integration. In addition the energy sector was given its due attention as the important economic stimulant in developing the region, by providing the capital base and the source of energy and source of job opportunities for the increasing population of the region.

The different workshops of the Conference dealt with issues such as the opportunities for business in the Middle East and how these opportunities can be further encouraged to play an effective role in bringing about the development of the individual countries in the region and the Middle East as a whole.

Needless to say there were vibrant discussions on the perplexing issues of the region that could present drawbacks to the further development of the region, including the War in Iraq, the difficulties between Iran and some of the countries in the region and the some of the countries in the international community. Accordingly, arriving to amicable solutions to these issues would go along way towards enhancing the opportunities for developing the region, both at the country level and the region as a whole.

The organizers of the Conference insured that participants are present not only from the countries of the region, but also from academic and international cooperation spheres that will enrich the outcomes of the Conference.

The organization of the Conference attested to the great improvements that Qatar has evolved over the last decade in smoothly coordinating such activities. The observer could not fail to note all the efforts to ensure that the 260 participants in the Conference have the needs and resources that would maximize their contributions to the Conference.

The Conference would eventually provide recommendations that would be presented to the channels that would play a role in the development of the region and would form a basis for further discussions and activities that would help enhance development and regional cooperation.

Yemen participated with the presence of Dr. Rashid Barabba'a, Minister of Oil and Mineral Resources, Dr. Hussein Al-Amri, Member of the Consultative Assembly and Former Minister of Educational and Foreign Affairs, Mohammed Al-Ba'adani, Deputy General Manager fo the Yemen LNG Project, Mr. Abdurrahman Hayel Saeed and Mr. Abdul Jabbar Hayel Saeed and this observer, in his capacity as a political and economic analyst. Present at the

It is worth noting that Fardia Hashem Senior Consultant Felixia Associates of London played a leading role as coordinator between the Qatari Foreign Ministry and the Burkle Center of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

In the next issue we will discuss the outcomes of the Conference and the recommendations that the Conference came out with and how the Conference can be used as a basis for further discussions on enhancing development at the country level and furthering regional cohesion on a broader scale.

One cannot fail to mention that the level of development that one notices in Qatar are truly manifest as one goes from one end of Doha to the other, both in terms of the advanced infrastructure base and the facilities that help to reflect the enjoyment of a better standard of living for the overall population. In addition, the educational awareness of the people of Qatar could easily be discerned both from the Qatari participants in the Conference and the people of Doha, one perchance talked with in various locations of the city.