Arab economy shrinks, pushes quarter of population into poverty

by Muizat Hameed

A new report compiled by the United Nation’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia has said the spread of COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected the Arab economy causing it to shrink by 5.7 per cent with a loss totalling $152 billion.

The report, which was released on Thursday July 23, 2020, stated that some Arab countries have worse situations as their economies have contracted by 13 percent.

It added that another 14.3 million people may be pushed into poverty, raising the total number to 115 million –a quarter of the total Arab population.

With more than 55 million people in the region relying on humanitarian aid before the COVID-19 crisis, including 26 million who were forcibly displaced, many countries are expected to struggle with the added burden.

Though Arab countries moved quickly to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, preventing the rate of death seen in the UK and US, they still face an impossible task in shielding their economies from the anticipated global recession in the post-corona era.

International Monetary Fund (IMF), in a different report published earlier this month also painted the same gloomy picture for the Gulf countries.

“The oil-rich states are expected to see their economies shrink by as much as 7.6 per cent,” the report adds.

Despite its depressing forecast, the UN urged Arab countries to see this as an opportunity.

Rola Dashti, the head of the UN commission said, “Turn this crisis into an opportunity and address longstanding issues, including weak public institutions, economic inequality and over-reliance on fossil fuels.”

“We need to invest in survival, survival of people and survival of businesses,” she added.

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