Economic growth in the Middle East fell to 3.5 per cent in 1993 from 6.8 per cent in 1992, according to the executive secretary of the Amman- based UN Economic & Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), Sabah Bakjaji.

He told the opening session of the annual ESCWA meeting in Amman on 29 May that most countries in the 13-member organisation had balance of payments deficits. Many had unresolved budget deficits and oil price fluctuations made planning difficult.

Bakjaji also warned about the possibly adverse impact of the Uruguay round of the General Agreement on Tariffs & Trade (GATT) and the rise of economic blocs in other parts of the world. ‘If the states of the region are to cope with these and other challenges in an effective manner that ensures their vital interests and preserves their economic security, they must first strengthen their co-operation,’ he said.

On 1 June, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) published its 1994 edition of the Human Development Report which showed Kuwait was the most advanced economy in the region according to a measure of life expectancy, education and living standards. It was the only Middle East country classified in the highest category of development by the UNDP.