Kuwaiti Columnist: The Arabs Need to Have Large Portions of their Brains Examined
Posted by addisethiopia on December 22, 2014
In this video, Mr. Fouad Hashem also says: “in my view, on judgment Day, 90% on inhabitants will be Arabs and people who pretend to be pious Muslims.”
Why Have The Islamic Countries Failed To Develop Even With Resources Like Oil, While Countries With No Resources Like Switzerland Have Flourished?
Answer by Ryan Lackey, Technology Entrepreneur,
It’s true. Outside of oil and gas projects and a few specific infrastructure projects (ports like Jebel Ali and airports like Dubai), far less real economic development has happened in the oil-rich parts of the Arab world than would be expected based on their great endowment of human and natural resources. The Islamic world isn’t monolithic, and it’s probably worthwhile to address relatively stable oil-rich states separately from Iraq, Iran, and Libya, again separately from other Islamic states without much oil separately from Asian Islamic countries like Malaysia and Indonesia. Let’s look specifically at the stable oil rich Arab Islamic states for now. I’m not an academic economist, political scientist, or cultural expert, but I lived in the region from 2004-2010, ran several businesses there, and have experience as a tech entrepreneur in the US and Europe, so I can comment directly on some of the challenges.
(There are some really interesting aspects of Iran, Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia, and Indonesia which would be interesting to address separately — they demonstrate what happens when some of these trends are reversed and taken too far the other way. Those countries deserve another question.)
Overall, the local standard of living has improved dramatically — walking around Dubai or even a moderately sized city anywhere in the region shows a reasonable standard of living, especially compared to a few decades ago. All those shiny new condo buildings, huge hypermarkets, highways, etc.
However, it’s all consumption of energy wealth, not evidence of other productive economic activity. While the economic theory of comparative advantage says you maximize efficiency by going all-in on areas where you have the greatest comparative advantage, economic efficiency isn’t the ultimate goal of life, and there are serious consequences to blindly maximizing current economic efficiency to the exclusion of all else. There is a huge qualitative difference between an economy built on natural resource extraction, where the populace is a cost center, and an economy built on productive labor by the population, where increasing capabilities of the society leads to more wealth. If you look at western countries, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, and increasingly, China, they largely developed through manufacturing, initially low cost, low value add manufacturing, moving up the chain, and ended up with vibrant, well-educated, and diverse economies (even though Japan has demographic challenges, it will still be the #3 economy in the world in 2030). The alternative is an extractive economy like Argentina, which went from 10th in the world in 1930 to a basketcase for the past 80 years. That’s not to say that natural resource endowment hasn’t helped some countries (like the US), but natural resource economies in the absence of local value creation don’t tend to lead to well developed societies.
Wealth in a resource-based economy is distributed much more unequally and more inefficiently. It goes to a small number of people at the top, and they’re at the top due to tribal, family, or political connections, not due to skill or productivity. In a vibrant, competitive manufacturing economy, wealth tends to accrue to innovators and efficient operators, and someone with a new idea or better way of doing things has a chance to get to the top. Admittedly, this is imperfect even in the US, but it’s a better system than political patronage.
And, someday, the oil will run out (or won’t be burned because of global warming).
Outside simple products and services for local consumption (consumers spending income directly from energy related jobs, or from government redistribution of energy wealth), and development, funded by energy wealth, of local transportation, power, and water infrastructure (starting from a very low base), what local development there has happened has been economically inefficient — building empty skyscrapers in the desert. This has been largely directed by government, or influential families affiliated with government, and financed by huge capital flows from oil/gas and foreign investment from Russia, South Asia, and other parts of the Arab or Muslim world, and not the product of real free enterprise. Essentially, these investments don’t produce wealth; they’re just a way to store wealth generated elsewhere, as a form of regulatory arbitrage. Even crazier, most of the labor, including skilled labor, to build buildings and operate companies is imported, too — labor from China and Pakistan, accountants from the Philippines, advertising executives from the Levant, and engineers and architects from the UK and US.