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Debt doubled in past decade to reach about $1.2 trillion
NEW YORK, Dec 30, (KUNA): A new UN report said that the unemployment rate in the Arab region is expected to rise to 12.5 percent in 2021. “Unemployment will reach its regional high in Palestine (31 percent) and Libya (22 percent); it will exceed 21 percent in Jordan and Tunisia, and hover around 5.8 percent in Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries,” said the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in its a new report on the economic and social developments in the Arab region.
The report warned that, although growth is expected to be positive in both scenarios, it will not be enough to yield decent job opportunities. Moreover, after having decreased by 50 percent in 2020, the region’s exports are expected to rise again by 10.4 percent in 2021, the report forecast. “The crisis faced by the Arab region goes beyond the economic realm to encompass major social challenges,” explained Lead Author Mohamed Hedi Bchir, from ESCWA.
“The region is also suffering from rising poverty, with an average rate that might reach 32 percent in 2021, affecting 116 million people. It is grappling with rising youth unemployment, with an average rate that might reach 27 percent; and with persisting gender inequality as it registers the world’s highest gender gap of 40 percent,” it added.
The Arab region is facing two economic scenarios for 2021: an optimistic one projecting a growth rate of 3.5 percent and one that is less optimistic, limiting growth prospects to 2.8 percent, it added. The actual path will hinge on the ability of Arab countries to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused losses of about USD 140 billion for the region, resulting in an estimated -3 percent growth contraction in 2020. According to the report, middle-income Arab countries are the ones expected to achieve the region’s highest growth rates, reaching 5 percent in the optimistic scenario and 4.1 percent in the less optimistic one.
As for GCC countries, they will achieve growth rates ranging between 2.3 percent and 2.1 percent, and least developed ones will not record more than 0.5 percent or 0.4 percent of growth, according to the report. This year’s report of the Survey focuses on debt in the Arab region, which has doubled in the past decade to reach about USD 1.2 trillion in Arab countries not affected by conflict, and about 80 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Arab middle-income countries.