CAIRO: Arab businessmen have pointed out that economic growth is not related to democratic reform in the region, which has seen sustained growth for the fourth year running.
“There is no democracy in the Arab world, said Mazen S. Darwazeh, co-chairman of the roundtable and Chairman of Hikma Pharmaceuticals in Jordan.
Khalid Abdulla-Janahi, Vice-Chairman of the ABC and Chairman of the Executive Committee at the Shamil Bank of Bahrain, Switzerland said “Democracy is important, but there can be economic growth without it such as in China and India.
Darwazeh added: “We live in a schizophrenic state, where we say something and do something else. I can’t just claim I’m democratic and do what I want. Governments should just say what they want. We’re supposed to work together to achieve the same goals.
Members of the Arab Business Council (ABC) speaking at the Arab World Competitiveness Roundtable held in Doha last week said they had taken the initiative to Arab governments with mixed results.
The Arab businessmen are calling for governments to work with them hand in hand to speed up the reform process in the region.
“What we have been doing in the last two years is engaging with governments, Mohammed Shafik Gabr, Chairman of the Arab Business Council and Managing Director of the Artoc Group in Egypt told The Daily Star Egypt.
“[And] the Arab Business Council has visited ten Arab countries. Some have engaged, some have politely listened and some don’t want to.
“Arab governments can’t afford to not deal with the private sector. They have to act and cannot be passive, Darwazeh told The Daily Star Egypt, “we engage with them. We still have a lot to work for, but I’m optimistic.
Other businessmen believe the onus is on the private sector to push for government cooperation.
Janahi told The Daily Star Egypt: “We must take the initiative because governments won’t allow us in. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the private sector. It’s not just about competition between us, but it’s about where we are from the rest of the world. We are still behind in many things.
Gabr believes that an aggressive approach is needed to bring the governments and private sectors together.
He said: “Persistence, patience, the right partner and going back again and again. Maybe the government itself will be willing but vested business interests might not.
On maintaining growth in the region Darwazeh said that “there is still a lot of work on sustaining the standards we have reached , adding that unemployment is a big challenge.
The ABC was created as a direct result of the 2002 Arab Competitiveness report, which was mostly negative in its findings.