UN agency says Arab uprisings cost that region more than $600bn

Slump in oil prices have increased burden on Middle Eastern and North African economies and restricted growth in oil-producing countries.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Some Arab countries will witness slow economic growth due to geopolitical factors such as lesser oil demand from China and Europe and restrictions on balance of payments.

The Arab uprisings of 2011 cost the Middle Eastern and North African economies an estimated $614 billion of growth because of regime change, continuing conflict and falling oil prices, a United Nations agency said on Thursday.

The figure from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), equivalent to 6 percent of the region's GDP up to the end of last year, is based on growth projections made before the uprisings that toppled four leaders and mired Yemen, Syria and Libya in war.

Published on Thursday, it is the first estimate of its kind by a global economic body.

In its sixth year of conflict, Syria alone has suffered GDP and capital losses of $259 billion since 2011, according to estimates from the National Agenda for the Future of Syria, another UN program.

At least 7.6 million people are internally displaced in Syria, whereas more than four million others have fled the country, according to Chief of ESCWA Model and Forecasting Section, Mohammad Hadi Baschir. Image: Reuters

Oil prices began to slide in mid-2014 and fell to 13-year lows this January, hitting producer countries such as Saudi Arabia, and others including Lebanon that rely heavily on remittances from citizens working in Gulf Arab states.

Kuwait's state-run KUNA agency quoted Director of ESCWA Economic and Integration Division, Mohamed El-Mokhtar Mohammad El-Hassan as saying that economic growth has partially stagnated as a result of economic and political uncertainty in the region.

He said the oil downturn would probably benefit producer countries in the long term as "they will put in place economic reforms leading to real diversification."

According to El-Hassan the region needed more financial support from the international community.

"We have seen in Latin America, Eastern Europe and the Balkans and the support they got in order to recover after conflict. We have not seen so far such support occurring for the Arab region."

TRTWorld and agencies