Arab world will be 'mortgaged' to advanced technological nations if it fails to keep up

Arab Strategy Forum is told of huge human potential but economic mismanagement in parts of the region

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The Arab world will be left behind unless it makes its own advances in technology, an event in Dubai heard.

Mohammad Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and the Future, also said the Middle East must invest its natural resources better.

"Do countries know that their sovereignty, their future and their information will be mortgaged to technologically superior nations if they do not take the initiative and move quickly towards the future?," he told the Arab Strategy Forum on Monday.

Dr Al Gergawi told an audience of government officials, academics and decision makers the region had "huge human potential". The region will see 100 million young Arabs enter the workforce in the next decade, has the largest oil reserves and welcomes hundreds of millions of visitors each year.

We have an administrative weakness. We do not improve the management of our resources to build the future

"But as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid has said on more than one occasion, we have an administrative weakness," said Dr Al Gergawi, who is president of the forum.

"We do not improve the management of our resources to build the future.

“Today we see turmoil, intense fire and societal explosions that spread from one Arab country to another because of a poor provision of basic services to citizens and because of mismanagement," he said.

“We are on the verge of a new global economic reality. How can we be a part of this new economic reality? How can the Arab world be part of this new economic reality? We must find answers to these vital questions."

An economic report ahead of the forum said a 2008-style global economic recession was unlikely, but top risk management consultant Nick Allen said leaders should prepare now for a tumultuous few years ahead.

“There is a clear link between economics and geopolitical uncertainty,” said Mr Allen, chief executive of Control Risks.

“More countries will face political pressures as they are unable to achieve their required economic growth.

“In an age where politics are played out in the cyber-sphere where rules are yet to be established, uncertainty is creating vulnerabilities.

“Nations like Russia, Iran and North Korea are testing those boundaries.

"Infrastructure is where they will be focused and we see that spilling over in 2020 and into the next decade.”

Mr Allen said a fragile global economy will be driven by US Chinese relations, an activist society, rising cyber warfare threats, political fragility and leaders acting without strategic intelligence.

“We are not predicting a recession like 2008-09, but we are forecasting an economic slowdown that will impact the US, European Union and China,” he said.

“We think 2020 will be the year when cyber warfare get significantly worse.

“Living in an age of connected business, with the Internet of Things, 5G and smart cities we will see more attacks surface.”

Dr Vikram Mansharamani, a Harvard University economist, said US-Chinese relations were likely to dominate global trends in the immediate future. He also predicted a global recession within three years.

“US-Chinese relations are not just about trade, this is a technology war,” he said.

“It is a huge rivalry. The result is there will likely be two global economies based around US and Chinese manufacturing.

“The UAE will have to choose which economic ecosystem it needs to be apart of.

“It will be a hard choice.”