epa06581458 Laborers work at a construction site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 05 March 2018. The Cambodian Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Labor announce that they expect approximately 100,000 foreign workers to be fined, sentenced to jail time or deported, starting in late April, for conducting work without the required work permits.  EPA/KITH SEREY
More money would be available for reconstruction and construction work if broader moves are made to tackle corruption across the world. EPA

Achieving sustainable development begins with fighting corruption

Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in Arab countries requires an additional $57 billion annually in investments until 2030, according to Arab Forum for Environment and Development reports. Countries had agreed on the 2030 deadline to achieve ambitious goals set by the United Nations, including eradicating poverty and hunger, ensuring health care, education, clean water and energy, and providing appropriate housing for all.

Traditional sources of financing sustainable development in developing countries are international institutions, multilateral and bilateral funds and foreign direct investment. However, regardless of the importance of securing additional external financial resources, emphasis should be placed on mobilising and reorienting existing domestic and public financial resources, such as integration among non-official sectors in Arab economies, public-private partnerships, tax reforms and adjustment of price support systems, charities, remittances, and private investments.

Over the past several decades, national and regional development institutions have played an important role in providing development and humanitarian assistance to Arab and other developing countries. Currently, the Coordination Group for Financing for Development includes eight national and regional Arab development institutions, in addition to the Islamic Development Bank and Opec Fund for International Development. These institutions have substantially contributed to the financing of the Millennium Development Goals and have made a strong commitment to providing assistance to finance the SDGs. Arab recipient countries can attract more funding for their sustainable development objectives from development financing institutions in the region by streaming their strategies towards the sustainable development goals. They should also prioritise their agenda accordingly and in a sequential manner on the basis of well-developed and implementable development processes and projects.

But attracting regional and foreign aid, as well as attracting private sector funding, depends on policy reforms, the reorganisation of price support practices and tax collection, in addition to enhanced transparency and public participation in decision-making. Although many Arab countries have already begun to shift in this direction, serious action in the fight against corruption is still slow, especially in poorer countries and those facing wars and conflicts.

A report recently released by Transparency International, Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, is alarming. It shows that only five Arab countries ranked above the global average score: the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Oman and Jordan. On the other hand, all remaining Arab countries achieved very low scores, among them five countries that ranked the worst. It is worth mentioning that the most corrupt countries were also the poorest.


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According to reports by the World Bank and the World Economic Forum, the world's combined losses from bribes and theft of public funds were estimated at between $1.5-2 trillion last year, representing 2 to 3 per cent of the world's GDP. This exceeds ten times the amount spent annually on external development assistance to developing countries.

According to a group of economists working on a new AFED report on financing sustainable development in the Arab world, the cost of corruption in Arab countries ranges between 2 to 3 per cent of the GDP. This means that between $60-90 billion a year is lost as a result of corruption and bribery. In other words, fighting corruption alone can save money beyond what Arab countries need to fill the gap in the additional funds needed to achieve sustainable development goals, which are less than $60 billion a year. The remaining savings will be enough to finance the reconstruction in countries torn apart by war and conflict.

It will not be possible to eliminate corruption completely or to save money from corruption immediately. That is why there is a continuing need for support from external sources, whether from international organisations or development funds. First, there needs to be a rapid launch of serious anti-corruption programmes, as this is a prerequisite for attracting international support and foreign investment. The private sector will also be deterred by corruption and the lack of transparency. Only serious reforms will provide confidence to invest in projects that lead to sustainable development, especially in the energy, food and water sectors.

Achieving sustainable development and enhancing environmental protection in the Arab region begins with fighting corruption. Although it does not end there, the road ahead will become easier when this goal is achieved.

Najib Saab is Secretary General of Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED) and Editor-in-Chief of Al-Bia Wal-Tanmia magazine

Company profile

Company name: Fasset
Started: 2019
Founders: Mohammad Raafi Hossain, Daniel Ahmed
Based: Dubai
Sector: FinTech
Initial investment: $2.45 million
Current number of staff: 86
Investment stage: Pre-series B
Investors: Investcorp, Liberty City Ventures, Fatima Gobi Ventures, Primal Capital, Wealthwell Ventures, FHS Capital, VN2 Capital, local family offices


Developer: SCE Studio Cambridge
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
Console: PlayStation, PlayStation 4 and 5
Rating: 3.5/5

Our legal consultant

Name: Dr Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.


Company name: Klipit

Started: 2022

Founders: Venkat Reddy, Mohammed Al Bulooki, Bilal Merchant, Asif Ahmed, Ovais Merchant

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Digital receipts, finance, blockchain

Funding: $4 million

Investors: Privately/self-funded


Director: Nayla Al Khaja

Starring: Jefferson Hall, Faten Ahmed, Noura Alabed, Saud Alzarooni

Rating: 3.5/5


July 5, 1994: Jeff Bezos founds Cadabra Inc, which would later be renamed to Amazon.com, because his lawyer misheard the name as 'cadaver'. In its earliest days, the bookstore operated out of a rented garage in Bellevue, Washington

July 16, 1995: Amazon formally opens as an online bookseller. Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies: Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought becomes the first item sold on Amazon

1997: Amazon goes public at $18 a share, which has grown about 1,000 per cent at present. Its highest closing price was $197.85 on June 27, 2024

1998: Amazon acquires IMDb, its first major acquisition. It also starts selling CDs and DVDs

2000: Amazon Marketplace opens, allowing people to sell items on the website

2002: Amazon forms what would become Amazon Web Services, opening the Amazon.com platform to all developers. The cloud unit would follow in 2006

2003: Amazon turns in an annual profit of $75 million, the first time it ended a year in the black

2005: Amazon Prime is introduced, its first-ever subscription service that offered US customers free two-day shipping for $79 a year

2006: Amazon Unbox is unveiled, the company's video service that would later morph into Amazon Instant Video and, ultimately, Amazon Video

2007: Amazon's first hardware product, the Kindle e-reader, is introduced; the Fire TV and Fire Phone would come in 2014. Grocery service Amazon Fresh is also started

2009: Amazon introduces Amazon Basics, its in-house label for a variety of products

2010: The foundations for Amazon Studios were laid. Its first original streaming content debuted in 2013

2011: The Amazon Appstore for Google's Android is launched. It is still unavailable on Apple's iOS

2014: The Amazon Echo is launched, a speaker that acts as a personal digital assistant powered by Alexa

2017: Amazon acquires Whole Foods for $13.7 billion, its biggest acquisition

2018: Amazon's market cap briefly crosses the $1 trillion mark, making it, at the time, only the third company to achieve that milestone

Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”


Name: Xpanceo

Started: 2018

Founders: Roman Axelrod, Valentyn Volkov

Based: Dubai, UAE

Industry: Smart contact lenses, augmented/virtual reality

Funding: $40 million

Investor: Opportunity Venture (Asia)

Company profile

Company: Zywa
Started: 2021
Founders: Nuha Hashem and Alok Kumar
Based: UAE
Industry: FinTech
Funding size: $3m
Company valuation: $30m

Our legal consultant

Name: Dr Hassan Mohsen Elhais

Position: legal consultant with Al Rowaad Advocates and Legal Consultants.

Jurassic Park

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Sam Neill, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough
Rating: 5/5


Twenty20 International series
Thu Oct 26, 1st T20I, Abu Dhabi
Fri Oct 27, 2nd T20I, Abu Dhabi
Sun Oct 29, 3rd T20I, Lahore

Tickets are available at www.q-tickets.com

Herc's Adventures

Developer: Big Ape Productions
Publisher: LucasArts
Console: PlayStation 1 & 5, Sega Saturn
Rating: 4/5

Suggested picnic spots

Abu Dhabi
Umm Al Emarat Park
Yas Gateway Park
Delma Park
Al Bateen beach
Saadiyaat beach
The Corniche
Zayed Sports City
Kite Beach
Zabeel Park
Al Nahda Pond Park
Mushrif Park
Safa Park
Al Mamzar Beach Park
Al Qudrah Lakes 


Director: Richie Mehta

Starring: Nimisha Sajayan, Roshan Mathew, Dibyendu Bhattacharya

Rating: 3/5


Director: Lee Isaac Chung

Starring: Glenn Powell, Daisy Edgar-Jones, Anthony Ramos

Rating: 2.5/5