Monday, December 9, 2019
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Undermining economy will not do anyone any good

The unrest in some Arab countries continues to impact on the regional economy. Economic conditions are deteriorating further, while growth rates and job opportunities are on a non-stop decline.

The region also continues to record an outflow of capital, investors, entrepreneurs and businesses, with losses estimated to have surpassed $1 trillion so far. It seems that the economy has become the focus of political differences with the opposition mounting constant efforts to systemically undermine it and to the detriment of all of society, especially the helpless and silent majority.

It has to be said that the opposition in each of the affected countries have engaged in such practices for the better part of three years and more, especially after governments there lost control and influence, as is the case in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

The same scenario is happening in countries which have already witnessed regime change, as in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, where the opposition is currently pursuing a method of intimidation aiming at terrorizing investors. This practice is carried out even in Bahrain, where the opposition is bent on undermining economic growth. This approach is doomed to be failure in Bahrain due to the intense levels of security engaged in by the oil sector, which is concentrated mainly in the Abu Safah oil field, a joint initiative with Saudi Arabia and managed by Saudi Aramco.

The opposition will fail in Bahrain also because being a smaller economy it is possible to mount a strong defence through the assistance provided by other Gulf states. A decline in employment opportunities will, however, impact both opposition supporters and common citizens. This means that the opposition groupings pursuing the practice of undermining the economy are impacting their supporters before anyone else.

For these reasons, Bahrain’s economy has recovered and succeeded in overcoming all manner of sabotage. Now, it is achieving growth that is not lower than those in other GCC countries. This provides evidence of the opposition’s failures and they will not succeed even in their future attempts since the conditions just do not exist for such practices.

This calls for a stop to such approaches and a return to e rational dialogue, which is the only way that leads to development. For the other affected Arab countries, they have relatively large economies and are dependent on key sectors such as tourism, transportation and services.

Accordingly, if a terrorist act is committed in a tourist facility, there will be significant damage to the sector for a long time and will cause losses, especially for small businesses. Such acts can only lead to an increase in unemployment rates, especially since the services and tourism sectors are labour intensive, which means that large sections of the society will suffer a drop in their standard of living.

This situation results from misjudgment by the opposition or even wanton disregard on their part. In fact, public properties are owned by all communities, and causing damage to these will impact everyone regardless of their political affiliations. People need to understand that they cannot get job opportunities or medical and education services, water and electricity services and roads except through these sectors and infrastructure.

If Bahrain has managed to overcome this critical phase, the rest of Arab countries are still suffering as standards of living continue to decline. More people are losing their jobs. Also, these countries are witnessing hundreds of small companies dependent on the tourist industry going under.

Therefore, opposition parties in Arab countries need to reconsider their approaches aiming at undermining the economy and not to harm the interests of their compatriots. This is also needed to maintain the minimum level of living standards for all communities.

The opposition should realise that a destructive approach will lead to nothing except a situation where everyone is a loser.

— Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.