Filipino leader threatening the Gulf countries

Filipino leader threatening the Gulf countries

The following article of Gulf Business of January 24th, 2018 would not come as a surprise.  It is perhaps due to the specific character of the Filipino leader threatening the Gulf countries to block any filipino manpower movement.  It was his reacting to his fellow country people mistreatment. It is above all because of the precarious life that the millions of Filipinos and Filipinas notably in the GCC countries are still leading. Life that is lately turning more and more arduous as the Arab Gulf countries seem to have entered a new phase. VAT apart, taxation generally and especially that on the expatriates’ remittances being mulled here and there are not helping. Other bureaucratic requirements and all sorts of administrative blockages to all foreign workers are noticeably heavier. In effect the Gulf countries by implementing new strategies in favour of the local youth as well as empowerment of local women seem to be turning all the countries of the GCC less and less in need of all that expatriate manpower. Moreover, start-ups making their mark in the local national populations leave very little room if not at all for the enterprising foreign youth. No political rights whatsoever were ever to be had but new relations are forming, and the Philippines would be by now feeling the pinch after years of easy and regular Dollar inflows.

So here is that Gulf Business Middle East article where the president’s comments come less than a week after he banned Filipinos from working in Kuwait.

Philippines’ Duterte threatens Middle East work ban



Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has threatened to ban his countrymen and women from working in the Middle East over concerns of mistreatment.


The premier’s comments on Wednesday come less than a week after he banned Filipinos from working in Kuwait after four domestic workers were abused and committed suicide.


A ban would affect the more than two million Filipinos currently employed across the Middle East, many as maids and retail workers.


“One more incident about a woman, a Filipina worker being raped there, committing suicide, I’m going to stop — I’m going to ban” Filipinos working, Duterte said before boarding a flight to attend a regional summit in India, according to AFP.


“And I’m sorry to all the Filipinos there, they can all go home.


“Let me be blunt about this because Kuwait has always been an ally. But please do something about it and for the other countries of the Middle East.”


Philippine foreign secretary Alan Peter Cayetano was separately quoted as saying that Duterte had reacted to a report detailing abuses in Kuwait.


He said there was a “grave concern” about the incidents in the country, which is home to 250,000 Filipino nationals. Those already working in Kuwait are unaffected by the ban.


Officials from both sides have met over the last week with Kuwait initially expressing surprise that the Philippines had taken such a drastic step.


Cayetano said the country was “sending a message” to end the abuse of its citizens working abroad.


An estimated 10 million Filipinos work abroad, and they send billions of dollars in remittances home each year.

Read: Philippines stops transfer of workers to Kuwait




Expatriate Businesses started up  across the GCC

Expatriate Businesses started up across the GCC

All the countries of the GCC have over the years employed expatriate manpower of mainly Asian origin. This working population was needed by the booming economies that have benefitted from a decades long surge and high levels of oil prices related revenues. Relatively good living standards and total absence of income tax followed on and were appreciated by all expats. Amongst these, some sort of a social decantation process took place and a number of leaders came into the light of day. A great number of successful Expatriate Businesses started up across the GCC and expanded across its member countries. Some of these are now claiming their share in the prosperity they helped engender if only for posterity’s sake.

It all started when oil prices having tumbled and lately been volatilising upward more than down for reasons outside their control, made the GCC respective authorities introduce various regulation items such as those applicable to all foreigners applying to work in the UAE. These come at a time when, according to many experts, salaries in the UAE are not expected in 2018 to keep up with inflation after the introduction of a 5% value added tax rate. They all nevertheless agree that wages across the Middle East would increase if at all but at a rate that is certainly lower than that of last year’s. Apart from that, any foreign worker will as of now be required to obtain a good conduct and behaviour certificate in order to be granted a work visa, state news agency WAM confirmed last Monday. This certificate must be issued from the applicant’s home country and certified by the UAE mission in that country.

The UAE looking at attracting and retaining the best talent from around the world has engaged into a program of reshaping the country’s economy through notably its diversification.

The reality on the ground is that whether from the huge numbers or origins of the diverse communities of the expatriate workers, the countries of the GCC will definitely be impacted by their passage as reported in this article of The National of January 9, 2018. We must say that in this article, it is question of people originating from a south west country of India, namely Kerala from which a great number of “NRIs” as these are best known as Non-Resident-Indians in every country of the GCC.

From schools to hospitals, Kerala businessmen leave imprint on UAE

Some of the UAE’s biggest names in business come from India’s Kerala state.

By Ramola Talwar Badam

From supermarket magnates to industrialists who have built education conglomerates or established hospitals, some of the UAE’s biggest business names come from India’s Kerala state.

A large portion of the one million people from Kerala who work in the UAE are employed as nurses, drivers, technicians, electricians and accountants.

But there are also those who can be found in the self-made billionaires list and philanthropists who give back to the community by building local schools and clinics.

Yusuff Ali, managing director of the UAE-based Lulu Group left a village in Kerala for a job in his uncle’s distribution business in the 1970s. Described by Forbes as the Middle East’s retail king, his group owns close to 140 hypermarkets and supermarkets across the Middle East, Africa, India and the far East.

Handed the Queen’s Award last year for his contribution to international trade and employment generation in the UK, Mr Ali has diversified into hotel development and food processing.

Dr Azad Moopen, chairman of the DM Healthcare group, spearheads a healthcare chain that operates 18 hospitals, close to 100 clinics and more than 200 pharmacies in the Middle East and India.

A general physician who taught at a government medical college in Kerala, he moved to Dubai in 1987 to help an Indian doctor in an Ajman clinic.

Mr Moopen runs a foundation to help women and the elderly.

One of the most successful education entrepreneurs, Sunny Varkey, is the son of teachers who migrated to Dubai in 1959. Gems Education, of which Mr Varkey is founder, now runs more than 70 schools in 14 countries.

Mr Varkey’s group funds the training of thousands of teachers in programmes in Africa.

Read more:

Sky is the limit for India’s new rich

Saudi banning foreign employment in gold and jewellery shops

Saudi banning foreign employment in gold and jewellery shops

An interesting article of Gulf Business posted on December 4, 2017 on how Saudi Arabia in its multi-facetted program of “Saudization” is getting down to the nitty-gritty of specialized retail business. As if the country does have enough things to worry about these days, this recently included Saudi banning foreign employment in gold and jewellery shops. 

Saudi bans employment of foreigners in gold and jewellery shops

A deadline for businesses to employ Saudis in the sector ended on Sunday

Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Labour and Social Development on Sunday began the process of fully nationalising jobs in the kingdom’s gold and jewellery industry.

The move, which will make it illegal to employ foreigners in the sector, follows several failed attempts to Saudise industry jobs over the last 16 years, according to Saudi Gazette.

It is estimated that the majority of the around 30,000 workers in the sector are expatriates. These are spread across 6,000 gold shops.

The nationalisation programme is expected to provide 5,000 jobs for Saudis when it is fully implemented.

The ministry is also hoping to reduce instances of businesses run by foreigners in the name of Saudis by 40 per cent.

During previous Saudisation efforts in the sector many businesses in Makkah and other cities were found to be operating under a form of fake Saudisation.

This was partly because work in the sector has proved to be unattractive to Saudi citizens, with monthly salaries averaging SAR3,000 ($800) to SAR7,000 ($1,863).

Shops found to be employing foreigners from Sunday will face a SAR20,000 ($5,324) fine for each expat worker.

Permanent inspectors have been appointed in markets and malls to punish violators.

Foreigners married to Saudi women will be exempt from the new regulation provided they remain together or have children.

The kingdom’s gold and jewellery market is estimated to be worth SAR14bn ($3.72bn).

The ministry has also issued regulation to fully Saudise other businesses and sectors as part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reforms.

These include mobile phone shops and stores selling female-specific items.


Read: Gold and jewellery shops in Saudi face $5k fines

Saudi’s riches conceal lack of decision making

Saudi’s riches conceal lack of decision making

Saudi’s riches conceal lack of decision making on every single item of the country’s main current worrisome concerns. For instance, in Keep OPEC out of Wall Street published by Journal of Energy Security of July 19, 2017, we were informed that for the past several months two of the world’s leading stock exchanges – the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the London Stock Exchange (LSE) – have been competing over the listing of Saudi Aramco, Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, in what would be the largest IPO in history. 
But for the Saudis the choice between New York and London is not an easy one. Prince Mohammad Bin Salman, who was recently installed as the Kingdom’s crown prince and who is considered the mastermind of the IPO, prefers an NYSE listing which would solidify US-Saudi relations even beyond the recent $350 billion arms deal between the two countries. Aramco executives on the other hand prefer London as there, they believe, the company would be more protected from shareholders lawsuits over not only the conduct of the company but also that of the Saudi government. To date no decision has been made.
No one can blame the owners of those exchanges for their eagerness. The same is true for the underwriters of the IPO like Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan or the various consultancies and law firms benefiting from lucrative retainers and consulting fees associated with the offering. With an estimated valuation of $2 trillion the five percent Aramco will be offering the public are valued at $100 billion – more than the combined value of the top five largest IPOs ever floated in New York City. With such a bonanza every crumb is a mountain of cash. But from the broader public’s perspective things look vastly different. The Aramco IPO is a test of the integrity of our financial system and under the current structure no democratic government which believes in free and open markets should expose its investors to such an offering.
In the meantime, the IMF has recently come up with this conclusion-report of their Executive Board on the country that is reproduced here with our thanks to all.  Reading the above article in conjunction with the proposed one below can be very enlightening at a time where as reported by Reuters on this Monday morning that Oil prices dip as prospect of deeper OPEC output cut dims.

IMF Executive Board Concludes 2017 Article IV Consultation with Saudi Arabia

On July 17, 2017, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded the Article IV Consultation [1] with Saudi Arabia.

Non-oil growth is projected to pick up to 1.7 percent in 2017, but overall real GDP growth is expected to be close to zero as oil GDP declines in line with Saudi Arabia’s commitments under the OPEC+ agreement. Growth is expected to strengthen over the medium-term as structural reforms are implemented. Risks mainly come from uncertainties about future oil prices, as well as questions about how the ongoing reforms will affect the economy. Employment growth has weakened, and the unemployment rate among Saudi nationals has increased to 12.3 percent.

After increasing in early 2016 due to higher energy and water prices, CPI inflation has turned negative in recent months. It is, however, expected to increase over the next year due to the recently introduced excises taxes, further energy price reforms, and the introduction of the VAT at the beginning of 2018.

The fiscal deficit is projected to narrow substantially in the coming years. It is expected to decline from 17.2 percent of GDP in 2016 to 9.3 percent of GDP in 2017 and to just under 1 percent of GDP by 2022. This assumes that the major non-oil revenue reforms and energy price increases outlined in the Fiscal Balance Program are introduced on schedule and that operational and expenditure savings identified so far by the Bureau of Spending Rationalizations are realized. The deficit is expected to continue to be financed by a combination of asset drawdowns and domestic and international borrowing.

The current account balance is expected to move into a small surplus in 2017 as oil export revenues increase and import growth and remittance outflows remain relatively subdued. Net financial outflows are expected to continue, and SAMA’s NFA is projected to continue to decline, although it will remain at a comfortable level.

Credit and deposit growth are weak and are only expected to recover gradually. Interbank interest rates, which spiked higher during 2016, have fallen, and liquidity in the banking system is at adequate levels. Non-performing loans (NPLs) increased slightly to 1.4 percent, but remain low.

Saudi Arabia has embarked on a bold reform program under Vision 2030 that was announced in 2016. The authorities have made considerable progress in initiating the implementation of their ambitious reform agenda. Fiscal consolidation efforts are beginning to bear fruit, progress with reforms to improve the business environment are gaining momentum, and a framework to increase the transparency and accountability of government is largely in place. Effective prioritization, sequencing, and coordination of the reforms is essential, and they need to be well-communicated and equitable to gain social buy-in and ensure their success.

Please read more in the original document.

Chatham House is arranging for a webinar to be held on Tuesday July 25, 2017 between 10:00 and 10:30 BST

Vision 2030: Can Saudi Arabia Effectively Modernise?
With as Jane Kinninmont, Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Head, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House as a speaker.
OPEC, Trump and Gulf Papers trends in May

OPEC, Trump and Gulf Papers trends in May

It is under a title like this “How to get UAE residence visa for your parents in Dubai” in most of the GCC countries major papers that some sort of emigration appears to be underway or at least facilitated. After our daily review of the local press online; a clear OPEC, Trump and Gulf Papers trends in May was felt to be prevailing.

Trump’s Middle East visit could be decisive, says Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury or head of the Church of England last week to The Guardian.

At a time where low oil prices are persistently down and investments generally stagnating, expatriates employment figures though demonstrably kept very carefully away from direct sight, these papers are keen to providing answers to frequently asked questions like this “Do you want your parents to live with you in Dubai?”  With answers such as “Here’s what you need to do.”

Another subject that is keenly pursued by all newspapers editors is about items of news such as this particular one that is about Oman deciding lately to allow property purchase by non-nationals residents.  GCC and foreigners rights to own real estate in the GCC member countries have always been very heavily constrained and / or restricted to certain areas of well-defined urban territories, whereas these seem to be looked at little more liberally these days for the benefit of the expatriate workers.  Could such facilitation be allowed for any specific reason or is it just an operation for fishing wide and large for some kind of PR campaign.

Apart from wondering on the nature of the newspapers response to obviously a well felt demand for such as it were family reunion or gathering, it must be said that all this is happening whilst the rest of the Middle East is going through its most poignant phase in its millennia history.  Ironically it is at this conjecture that taxation will be introduced shortly starting in a few months making expats wonder whether they will be going to have to start paying taxes in the countries where we work.  Their immediate reaction is as for everywhere : does taxation mean representation.  These know that after all they have no political clout, no representation in municipal, regional, let alone national councils.

We have fished a typical rendering of this on-going thread of business as usual in Gulf News of May 16, 2017  citing their Source as being The official portal of Dubai Government .



Sold Openly in Modern-day Slave Markets

Sold Openly in Modern-day Slave Markets

The Guardian’s  of April 10th, 2017 published an article written by Emma Graham-Harrison on how West African migrants are being bought and sold openly in modern-day slave markets in Libya, survivors have told a UN agency helping them return home.
Trafficked people passing through Libya have previously reported violence, extortion and slave labour. But the new testimony from the International Organization for Migration suggests that the trade in human beings has become so normalised that people are being traded in public.

Gambian migrants returning home from Libya carry bags from UN agency the International Organization for Migration. Photograph: Luc Gnago/Reuters

Today we are proposing another of the same but this time happening at the other end of the MENA region, i.e. in Bahrain. It is IBT that picked a certain hoo-hah that went almost unnoticed on Twitter and Instagram media.
Recruitment agencies in the GCC countries are a good business line that is fundamentally geared to providing a service to national and locally domiciled international populations by providing various types of house maids, drivers, etc. usually out of the Indian sub-continent for a fee. It is as normal a business as your average employment agencies all over the world.
Hiccups do happen like anywhere else in the world, here it is as published today by the IBT.

Recruitment agency loses licence over ‘win an Ethiopian maid’ contest

Bahrain’s labour watchdog said competition was flagged for possible human trafficking. 

 By Elsa Buchanan

A recruitment agency in Bahrain that ran a competition on social media offering its followers the chance “to win an Ethiopian maid” during the month of Ramadan has had its licence suspended pending the outcome of an official probe, it has emerged.

Rights groups have repeatedly warned of the treatment of domestic workers – including large numbers of workers from Sub-Saharan Africa primarily from Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya – in Gulf countries.

The domestic employment agency, Al Hazeem Manpower, was investigated after it published a picture on its Facebook account in which it promised users: “During the month of Ramadan, follow and mention the Instagram account and win an Ethiopian maid”, complete with “runaway” insurance (below).

In its ad, Al Hazeem Manpower outlined the one condition to designate a winner was that he, or she, had to have a work permit to employ a domestic worker.

Bahrain’s Labour Market Regulatory Authority (LMRA) suspended the agency’s licence while it investigates the competition that has been flagged for possible human trafficking.

Ausamah Al Absi, LMRA’s chief executive, is quoted by Bahrain News agency as saying the recruitment agency treat their workers as “commodities”, and slammed the campaign as “disrespectful” and “extremely offensive”. The agency subsequently deleted the posts, but posted an edited version on Instagram (below) in which it removed the offer to “win a domestic worker” .

Responding to the claims, Al Hazeem Manpower, claimed it did nothing wrong except use the “wrong wording”, and that they “immediately made the required changes” following the complaint.

Last month, footage emerged of a woman filming her Ethiopian maid falling from a seventh-floor window without attempting to help her. Kuwaiti authorities have opened an investigation.

Any thoughts?


UAE and India to enjoy stronger trade and cultural ties

UAE and India to enjoy stronger trade and cultural ties

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has a GDP of about $350 billion and a high GDP per capita, but it is a commodity-based economy, with hydrocarbons accounting for 40% of total exports and 38% of its GDP. In its drive towards diversifying its economy and reduce its dependence on oil revenues, the UAE programmed for tourism, financial and construction sectors to receive most of its investments. Meanwhile, manufacturing activity accounted for 42% of output growth, transport and communication for 23%, wholesale and retail trade for 16.5% and catering and hospitality for 15.5% whilst construction and agriculture contracted these last 2 years. All of these activities are manned by active populations which according to all governments agencies and local media are made of more than 85% of expatriate population with 71% mostly Indian. The UAE and India to enjoy stronger trade and cultural ties further have to come together in a range of agreements .

Arabian  came up on Monday, 13 March 2017 with this article by Hamad Buamim, thus providing an idea as it were from the inside to show where the UAE’s heart lies hence the subject of the proposed article on tying ever more closer relationships with India. Like all countries of the GCC, the UAE has some difficulty in accepting to apply some sort of minimal fair ‘Equal Opportunity’ treatment to all their residents, if only to sedenterise them better. It must however be said on this chapter, the UAE have prominently shown the way, by being at the forefront of the other members of the GCCs.

Why the UAE is forging closer ties with India

[ . . . ] The UAE and India have enjoyed strong trade and cultural ties that date back more than a century. This unique relationship has strengthened in recent decades amid an increase in bilateral trade and investment. Non-oil trade between India and Dubai has accounted for the largest volume of trade, amounting to $19bn in the first nine months of 2016, and solidifying India’s position as the emirate’s second-largest trading partner.

The Indian business community in the UAE has contributed significantly to bilateral relations and trade. In fact, 29 percent of all new companies that registered with Dubai Chamber last year were Indian, bringing the total number of Indian members to over 36,000. At the same time, India remains one of the top export markets for Dubai Chamber members, with exports and re-exports to the country growing steadily in recent years to reach $1.7bn by the end of 2016.

Yet, we see huge potential within India’s fast-growing economy that has yet to be explored. The two countries share many synergies, especially within the areas of agriculture, pharmaceuticals, manufacturing and metals.

The world’s fifth-largest economy has renewed its focus on foreign trade, while it has also outpaced China in exports of locally made retail and lifestyle products. At the same time, it has stepped up efforts to strengthen its economic cooperation with the UAE in the areas of agriculture, food security, energy, defence, technology and healthcare.

India has put forth a clear roadmap to fuel future economic growth that places a major emphasis on expanding its infrastructure and boosting foreign direct investment. The country is building several cluster cities and recently opened its first international finance services centre in Ahmedabad. New policies are also focussed on turning India into a manufacturing hub for pharmaceutical and medical products under the “Make In India” initiative.

There are also exciting new technologies that India is embracing, such as blockchain, which has now been successfully tested by the country’s central bank.   Smart city concepts are also gaining momentum and the adoption of innovative solutions stands to make the country a major hotspot for smart city developments.

As a country that has excelled in rapidly expanding its infrastructure and economy, I believe that the UAE can offer the right level of expertise and investment needed to meet growing demand within India and help turn the country’s ambitions into a reality. [ . . . ]

Qatar enjoys ‘lowest political risk’ in MENA

Qatar enjoys ‘lowest political risk’ in MENA

Doha News‘ Victoria Scott citing BMI Research  came up with this comforting piece of writing as per BIM R’s analysis and findings in a background of increasingly alarming news of upheaval reaching into the Gulf countries generally. Qatar enjoys ‘lowest political risk’ in MENA and anything contrary to that would pass perhaps unnoticed were it not for the forthcoming World Cup Football games of 2022. Seriously, the peninsula of Qatar with a population of no more than 350,000 nationals and almost 1,000,000 expatriate workers might seem to be a peace heaven to the naked eye, but it is not that different from the surrounding neighbouring countries of the GCC.  The latest United Nations estimates its total to 2,321,525 as of February 24, 2017 with the median age of 30.8 years. The evocation of this piece of statistics alone would no doubt allude to all those issues that have yet to come into the open.

Qatar enjoys ‘lowest political risk’ in MENA, despite austerity measures

Qatar is likely to remain one of region’s most stable economies in the coming years due to its strong economy, top-heavy governance and politically inactive population, a new report has found.

According to BMI Research, the government’s ability “to provide its citizens with generous subsidies and economic opportunities” is a main reason for the stability.

However, Qatar has implemented some austerity measures in recent years due to lower oil prices and budget deficits.


Photo for illustrative purposes only Reem Saad / Doha News

But when asked about actions such as rising utility and gas prices, BMI told Doha News that these were “unlikely” to have a negative effect on stability.

Andrine Skjelland, MENA Country Risk Analyst at BMI, said:

“The scope of fiscal consolidation remains limited, and the overall impact on Qatari citizens’ living standards will be minimal.

In any case, we believe the government would be quick to scale back measures at first signs of significant popular discontent, preventing unrest from spreading.”

However, BMI’s report noted that political involvement from Qatari citizens is expected to remain “minimal.” Additionally, it forecast that foreign workers will continue to be subject to “heavy restrictions.”

It added that national policies will continue to be shaped by “a small group of elite decision makers” who face few constraints, “in turn ensuring broad policy continuity.”

Trump effect

BMI was also optimistic in terms of the big picture. For example, it asserted that Qatar’s diplomatic ties with the US will remain strong.

This is despite Donald Trump’s presidency and his views on radical Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood.

The report concluded that the continued US military presence at the Al Udeid air base and deep economic ties between the two countries will outweigh other US foreign policy concerns.

BMI’s experts added that a softer focus on human rights by the US would likely work in Qatar’s favor.

“Compared with the previous administration, we expect the US government under Trump to focus less on human rights issues and the spread of democracy in its foreign policy – a trend that will likely be welcomed in Doha, as it limits the potential for external pressure on it to implement political and social reforms.”

Muslim Brotherhood links

Trump’s team is also currently debating whether to designate the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist organization.

This move could strain diplomatic relations between the US and Qatar, whose support of the group in Egypt has caused past conflict with its neighbors.


European External Action Service

However, BMI asserted that Qatar’s ability to act as a peace-broker in the region, coupled with financial and military concerns, guarantee that the two countries won’t fall out over the issue.

“Doha’s ties to a broad range of state and non-state actors mean it is still considered a facilitator of MENA negotiations in Washington,” the report stated.

“The two countries also have deep trade links, particularly in the energy sector, and Doha has announced plans to invest $45bn in the US over the next five years.”

BMI added that Qatar would likely yield to US pressure over its Muslim Brotherhood ties if required to do so.

This is because relations with the US and other GCC countries are becoming increasingly important amid regional instability, according to the report’s authors.



Women at the rescue of the MENA Economies

Women at the rescue of the MENA Economies

Markaz of Brookings Doha Center published this article written by Firas Masri, Research Assistant at the Doha Center, on February 6th, 2017, so as to make a clear point with regards to women generally not only of the GCC countries but possibly of the wider region of the MENA countries.  These do indeed share the cultual, cultural and historical background that for centuries bore on all beings, particularly women of all ages and social backgrounds.  According to FS_Masri, employment of women would not impinge on that of the men but could also help the economies of those countries; she does make a point that preoccupied many and notably the European Union.  It said in its study that examined the economic, political and socio-cultural changes which have affected the situation of women in the Gulf region over the last decades by focusing on women’s rights and gender equality in Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates and provided a socio-cultural, political and economic analysis of women’s situation in the Gulf region.  Firas Masri in her essay looks at more recent trends and gives us an outlook that is not different from that of the EU’s.  So, is it Women at the rescue of the MENA Economies ?


Why the Arab world should employ more women

Governments in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) continue to search for ways to repair their fragile economies. For some countries in the region, experts wonder whether high unemployment and poor economic growth could precipitate another round of political upheaval, similar to the uprisings in early 2011.

Despite this ominous scenario, there is one strategy that MENA governments persistently overlook to ease economic pressures: increasing female employment, a topic that Bessma Momani explores in a recent Brookings policy brief. Momani explains that the lack of female representation in MENA workforces limits economic growth in the region. She also argues that government policies encouraging greater female participation in the workforce will have a host of other economic and social benefits, in addition to boosting GDP. Furthermore, Momani contends: “introducing diversity through gender parity will benefit economic growth and can help Arab countries generate prosperity—as well as the normative and social imperative of change.”

Unfortunately, as Momani outlines, several barriers impede women in MENA from joining the labor force. In order to counter this, in her view, MENA governments should conduct gender impact studies for regional policymakers to understand how policies shape cultural attitudes toward gender. MENA governments manage primary and secondary school curricula, which studies have shown contain direct and indirect gender biases in the national education curriculum. Momani’s research shows that such gender impact studies could expose the types of gendered language used in textbooks that help reinforce male-dominated workforces in the region. Government-sponsored internships allocated for women could overcome stereotypes in industries previously gendered as masculine, she adds.

Other factors that prevent women from entering the workforce in MENA countries include the following: low salaries, early retirement, underwhelming job benefits, difficulty securing capital for entrepreneurial ventures, and harassment in public spaces. By addressing these concerns in the short-term, Momani argues that regional governments will lay the foundation for economic prosperity in the long-term.  Regional policymakers face an enormous challenge if they address these issues simultaneously. Nevertheless, with many economies in the region facing a grim outlook for 2017, she contends that it would behoove them to seriously consider policies that encourage more women to join the workforce.

Women’s full employment in MENA could increase household incomes by as much as 25 percent:

According to a World Bank report, “women’s employment can significantly improve household income—by as much as 25 percent—and lead many families out of poverty.” It continues that increased household income will not only positively impact MENA economies on the micro level, but it will bolster economies on the macro level as well. The IMF supports this claim by noting that from 2000 to 2011, the region

“could have gained $1 trillion in cumulative output (equivalent to doubling average real GDP growth during the past decade) if female labor force participation had been raised enough to narrow the gender gap from triple to double the average for other emerging market and developing countries.”

Momani’s new research indicates that such predictions remain relevant today.

Higher female employment rates could reduce poverty due to lower birth rates and improvements in child welfare:

As Momani further discusses, echoing other researchers, greater economic opportunity for women could contribute to reducing poverty. Research by the National Institutes of Health, for one, has shown that financially independent women demonstrate a greater ability to support their children, which greatly improves child welfare. Momani points to studies showing that women in the beginning stages of their careers—especially younger women, who make family planning decisions later in life—tend to have fewer and healthier children, as well as higher earnings, which can reduce poverty rates among  youth.


Women-led households save more money:

Momani’s brief illuminates that as working women gain financial independence—and in some cases become the breadwinner of the family—they can gain more decisionmaking power in the family. As one gender equality study she cites argues: “Women’s propensity to save is greater than men’s, and women’s consumption focuses to a greater extent on the children and on household necessities.” As another report shows, this change in the household dynamic will also boost regional economic growth in the short-term, which will lead to sustainable economic development in the long term.

Even in households where financial responsibilities are shared equally among men and women, a cross-country panel study of semi-industrialized nations found “that an increase in women’s wage share relative to men is associated with increase in the domestic savings rate.” Whether women take sole responsibility of household financial matters or share this responsibility with their spouse, the benefits of this development will make families in MENA more fiscally secure, Momani shows.

If women were employed at the same rate as men, they would contribute $2.7 trillion to regional GDP by 2025, a 47 percent increase:

According to a McKinsey report, if MENA countries close the gender gap in the labor force, the region could see an additional $2.7 trillion added to MENA countries’ GDP by 2025. Momani concludes that Arab countries must overcome numerous cultural and societal challenges to stimulate increased female participation in the labor force, but by initiating policy changes that encourage a shift in this dynamic, MENA countries will find themselves more financially secure in the future.

Trump’s strategy on Immigration from the MENA

Trump’s strategy on Immigration from the MENA

From time immemorial, transhumance of one shape or another, in the Middle East, has been a common fact of life and still is to this day. Trump’s strategy on Immigration from the MENA is these days not exactly that different from those known throughout the region’s History. 

In effect, the region’s history as beautifully introduced by Lonely Planet goes like this:

Although rock art dating back to 10,000 BC lies hidden amid the desert monoliths of the Jebel Acacus in Libya, little is known about the painters or their nomadic societies, which lived on the outermost rim of the Middle East.

The enduring shift from nomadism to more-sedentary organised societies began in the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia (ancient Iraq) and the Nile River Valley of Ancient Egypt.

In about 5000 BC a culture known as Al-Ubaid first appeared in Mesopotamia. We known little about it except that its influence eventually spread down what is now the coast of the Gulf. Stone-Age artefacts have also been found in Egypt‘s Western DesertIsrael‘s Negev Desert and in the West Bank town of Jericho.

Sometime around 3100 BC the kingdoms of Upper and Lower Egypt were unified under Menes, ushering in 3000 years of Pharaonic rule in the Nile Valley. The Levant (present-day LebanonSyria and Israel and the Palestinian Territories) was well settled by this time, and local powers included the Amorites and the Canaanites. In Mesopotamia it was the era of Sumer, which had arisen in around 4000 BC and became arguably the world’s first great civilisation. [ . . .] Read more:

This article of The Conversation of January 31, 2017 written by Gerasimos Tsourapas, Lecturer in Middle East Politics, Department of Political Science and International Studies, University of Birmingham draws a fair picture of the present state of affairs and concludes that indeed:

Trump’s strategy on immigration comes straight from the Middle East playbook


Hezbollah supporters in Lebanon protest against the war in Yemen in October 2016. Nabil Mounzer/EPA

It is easy to ascribe Donald Trump’s recent policy decisions on immigration to his temperament. The US president’s executive order temporarily halting the country’s refugee programme and suspending visas for citizens of seven, Muslim-majority countries, are in line with his xenophobic rhetoric on the campaign trail.

The pressure on Mexico to finance the construction of a wall on the US-Mexican border is also a direct follow-up to his vitriolic statements on “bad hombres”.

It is equally tempting to blame the new administration’s immigration policy on Trump’s lack of respect for the rule-of-law and his need for continuing media and public attention. Particularly so as Trump has proposed policies that are unlikely to reduce any terrorist threat and can be easily overturned by federal courts.

But the history of Middle Eastern politics teaches us to approach immigration policies less as consequences of elites’ personalities, and more as instruments in the quest for political power. Both Trump’s policy on Mexico and his recent executive orders are reminiscent of measures adopted by Middle Eastern elites as bilateral strategies of coercion.

Remittance and visa restrictions

In early 2016, Saudi Arabia threatened to impose limits on the amount of money Lebanese migrants could send back home as a way of pressuring Lebanon into clamping down on Hezbollah. The Saudis, and other Gulf states, having declared Hezbollah a terrorist organisation in March 2016, realised that they possessed an effective, and relatively cost-free, mechanism of exerting pressure on Lebanon, which relies on migration to the Gulf Cooperation Council states for 70% of its remittance income.

Muammar Gaddafi used migration controls as part of his geopolitical strategy. Mohamed Messara/EPA

A few decades ago, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi would frequently implement – or threaten to implement – controls on Egyptian workers’ remittances as a way of putting pressure on the Egyptian government. When Egyptian president Anwar Sadat announced the creation of a Unified Political Command with Syria and Sudan in 1977, Gaddafi announced that “Sadat, in his behaviour, intends to oblige us” to act against Egyptians. Libya duly ceased the issuance of new work visas as authorities expelled thousands of Egyptian workers.

If this strategy sounds familiar, it is because it featured prominently in Trump’s presidential campaign agenda. In March 2016, Trump sent a two-page memo to the Washington Post detailing how he would threaten to halt illegal migrants’ money transfers to Mexico unless the country paid for the construction of the wall. “It’s an easy decision for Mexico,” Trump wrote. “Make a one-time payment of US$5-$10 billion to ensure that US$24 billion continues to flow into their country year after year.”

Deportations, Saudi style

Beyond remittance and migration restrictions, Middle East elites have also used deportation as a strategy of coercion amid neighbourhood tension. When Yemen failed to denounce the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait at the UN Security Council (where it was a non-permanent member) in September 1990, Saudi Arabia expelled around 800,000 Yemenis over the following two months. Other Arab states followed Saudi’s example and deported more Yemenis. The domestic upheaval that ensued in Yemen and the collapse of migrant remittances had destabilising effects that paved the way for the 1994 Yemeni Civil War.

Palestinians in Kuwait had a similar fate, and the entire community faced discrimination and, consequently, mass deportations when Palestine Liberation Organisation leader Yasser Arafat failed to denounce the Iraqi invasion in 1990.

Trump’s executive order barring entry to citizen from seven Musim-majority countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen – needs to be understood through the lens of the US administration’s immigration strategy. This will undoubtedly become much clearer in the new few weeks, but the Washington Post has already identified how the ban excludes any country where the Trump Organisation has business interests. Though it’s worth pointing out that the seven countries were initially singled out for extra visa checks during the Obama administration.

Beyond the human cost involved in the use of immigration policy as a geopolitical strategy, the US administration should keep in mind a second lesson from the Middle East experience: target states often devise a retaliatory strategy. This may involve countermeasures or, in the case of Egypt and Libya, a border war in 1977. Iran has already declared it would ban entry to US citizens in response to Trump’s actions, while the New York Times has begun talking of the making of a trade war with China. Not surprisingly, the number of voices criticising Trump’s strategy as bad foreign policy is increasing daily.


Disclosure statement : Gerasimos Tsourapas does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond the academic appointment above.
University of Birmingham provides funding as a founding partner of The Conversation UK.
The Conversation UK receives funding from Hefce, Hefcw, SAGE, SFC, RCUK, The Nuffield Foundation, The Ogden Trust, The Royal Society, The Wellcome Trust, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Alliance for Useful Evidence, as well as sixty five university members.