Mideast Valdai Conference, Session 4. Economic Development and Effective Governance in the Middle East
Moscow, Valdai Discussion Club Conference Hall
List of speakers

During the fourth session, "Economic development and good governance in the Middle East", the participants discussed the roadmaps of the speedy region recovery.

According to Vladimir Popov, Professor in the Graduate School of International Business at the Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration in Moscow, before the crisis the Middle East countries were among the world leaders in terms of economic growth and improving social conditions. Before 2010 among the most successful countries were Oman, Israel, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia. Their development meant a declining level of social and economic inequality, decrease of the per capita murders. This proves that the economic miracle could be fulfilled in the Middle East.

Reasons for economic disaster in the Middle East are complex. According to Hamadi Redissi, professor of political science at the Tunis University, one of the major reasons for the lack of economic development in the region can be found in the slow processes of democratization. This does not mean, however, that the expectation of structural political reforms is the only way out. The difficulty, as professor Redissi said, lies in the high level of the shadow economy development and the lack of tax funds to carry out the necessary reforms. In this connection, after the end of hostilities the authorities will need to work on the restoration of the authority of state institutions.

The panelists identified country-specific examples of the economic recovery problems. Abdallah Al-Dardari , Deputy Prime Minister of Syria (2005–2011), Deputy Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, called in his speech to work on the restoration plans and the demilitarization of the Syrian economy without waiting for the end of hostilities. The rapid growth of GDP in the pre-crisis years, with forecasts of up to 90 billion dollars a year by 2015, was replaced by plummeting after the start of hostilities. Currently, the most optimistic is the plan to restore the economy to pre-war levels by 2025. Restoring Syria is not only the matter of the Syrian people, but also of the entire international community, with the assistance of regional actors. The key to successful recovery of the devastated economy, according to Abdallah al-Dardari, is the presence of strong political will, readiness to take difficult decisions, and the centralization of power.

Naufel al-Hassan, Deputy Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister’s Office of Iraq, outlined a plan to restore Iraq by the new government. In his opinion, the most important regional problem is the lack of trust of the population of the Arab countries to their governments.

According to Bakhtiar Amin (Iraq), President of the Foundation for the Future, the power in the region is in the hands of less than 5% of the population, which forms the basis for the tensions and search for alternative ways of management. Naoufel Alhassan stressed that the most important accents in the new Iraqi government's strategy would be social and political structural reforms, fighting corruption and unemployment, based on the analysis and the eradication of their root causes.

According to experts, in the absence of effective models for the region recovery, unemployment pushes people to various military groups, and causes addiction to the humanitarian assistance by the international community. The development of the stabilization plans and the transition of the economy to a peacetime footing are one of the fundamental factors of the economic growth in the Middle East.