Western Asia saw slightly slower economic growth in 2013 compared to 2012 but growth is expected to accelerate in 2014 even with fallout from military conflicts, said Abdallah AlDardari, the ESCWA Chief Economist and Director of the Economic Development and Globalization Division said on 24 January 2014.
AlDardari was discussing the findings of the World Economic Situation and Prospects 2014 (WESP) in a press briefing held at the Regional Commission's headquarters in Beirut. The WESP is an annually produced report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN-DESA), the United Nations Conference for Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the five UN regional commissions, including ESCWA.
"The WESP report found an average growth of 3.6 per cent in Western Asia for 2013 and a 3.4 percent growth for the Arab region in the same year. Growth is expected to accelerate to 4.3 per cent in 2014 in Western Asia, and to 4.0 percent for the Arab region," the Chief Economist said.
He added, "Economic performance varied greatly among Western Asian countries in 2013. Oil-exporting countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), such as Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar and Saudi Arabia remained on a stable recovery path. Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, the Syrian Arabic Republic and Yemen saw sharper declines in economic activity due to continuing political instability and social unrest."
"The crisis in Syria continues to have negative spill-over effects for neighboring countries, particularly in regards to subdued cross-border economic activities—including trade, investment and tourism—between GCC countries and the rest of Western Asia," he noted.
In this regard, AlDardari said that the conflict in Syria continued to induce a massive refugee crisis for neighbouring countries, resulting in population increases in already stressed political and economic landscapes. Lebanon has seen a population increase of 25 per cent due to the Syrian refugee crisis, and Jordan has seen an increase of 15 per cent. Most Syrian refugees compete with domestic low-skilled workers for jobs in the informal sector in host countries. The report also warns of creeping inflation in Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon, in part from a significantly increased number of residents, including Syrian refugees. Syria is in a state of hyperinflation due to depleted foreign reserves and the devaluation of its national currency.