Infrastructure: Socio-economic development in the Middle East

30 June 2007
Civil and social infrastructure is as important to economic development as physical utilities, argues Ahmad Khayyat, chief executive officer of Emaar Industries & Investments.

What do you think is the single most important development in the Middle East in the past 50 years, and why?

The globalisation of international commerce and technological advancements have revolutionized the way the Middle East does business. This has shifted the focus of the economies from a dependence on oil to non-oil sectors, and helped the region gain foreign direct investment in several key growth areas. In line with economic liberalisation, regional economies have also opened up markets, signed free-trade agreements and joined world economic blocs.

What is the most important factor affecting social or economic development in the Middle East today?

Geo-political concerns have great impact on the economy as well as its social fabric. However, there is a strong wave of political reforms, which are increasingly serving as effective platforms for socio-economic development. Effective civil society organisations (CSOs) are playing a larger role in scrutinising state bodies and working towards the welfare of the people, and leading sustainable development practices. Also significant is the emergence of private-public partnerships (PPPs) in all realms of the economy.

How would you like to see the Middle East change in the next 50 years?

The Middle East is witnessing a radical shift from family-run business models to modern, professionally managed enterprises. There has also been a significant shift from the economy’s dependence on oil. In a changing world, the old model has little relevance. A new model must emerge - and we have abundant signs in that direction - wherein the economy relies on non-oil-led growth and greater private sector participation. This in turn leads to more employment opportunities and increased foreign direct investment.

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