(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai has confirmed that he is optimistic about the economy in the Arab world in 2018 and stressed: "We see positive trends in 2018 for the UAE as we are politically, economically and intellectually prepared. We enjoy a diversified economy and strong international trade. We are strengthened by our positive experience, helping us face the future and seize opportunities."
He added that many Arab countries will witness major economic reforms next year, noting that the oil-exporting countries have adapted economically to the impact of the decline in prices and that the economic reforms in the Arab world are positive indicators for the future.
His Highness' comments came during his attendance of the 10th session of the Arab Strategic Forum that examined the political and economic situation in the region and the world in 2018. The event was attended by Mohammed Abdullah Al Gergawi, Minister of Cabinet Affairs and The Future and the Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the Forum, and several ministers, officials, media personalities and intellectuals.
He hoped that the year 2018 will bring positive changes to the region's political landscape, and said: "We hope 2018 will see breakthroughs in addressing our region's crises."
He pointed out that the world is becoming more interconnected than ever, and what is happening in any part of it is reflected in the region at large. He said: "The Arab world is experiencing rapid changes and nations that do not strive to develop risk falling behind."
The forum's agenda included six sessions that discussed the current state of the Arab region and the world, both economically and politically, in 2018. Speakers included former French President Francois Hollande, who discussed the prospects of the fragmentation of the European Union, and Robert Gates, the former US secretary of Defense, who discussed the possibility of the world turning into a battleground due to the conflict between North Korea and the United States in 2018
Political state of the world in 2018 On the political state of the world in 2018, former French President Francois Hollande, said: "Britain will be more affected by its exit than the European Union, especially since Scotland and Northern Ireland will remain in the EU following the departure of Britain. In addition, France's leadership will remain strong and the country's position will not be shaken in the European Union or across the world."
"There is a fear that North Korea will continue to develop its ballistic missile system, which will create tension in international relations, but I rule out a military clash and expect things to settle through dialogue," said former US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. He predicted that terrorism would continue to target major cities in the world despite the defeat of Daesh in Iraq and Syria. He demanded that the coordination among the countries of the world should be increased to control the expansionist agenda of terrorist groups and prevent them from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.
Major events that will Impact the world in 2018 In a session titled "Major Events that Will Impact the World in 2018", Ian Bremmer, President and founder of Eurasia Group, said China is capable of leading the global economy, even while the world lacks model leaders capable of influencing events and building effective alliances. Bremmer said that the policies of US President Donald Trump have witnessed American influence waning in several areas of conflict such as the China Sea and Syria. He also highlighted the American withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement and Trump's recent comments that led to a broad international rejection to almost all the US foreign policies.
Bremmer added: "The situation in Europe is similar to that in America in terms of the inequality and dominance of major economic monopolies, which have led to the spread of populist tendencies in these nations and the decline of the Western economic model in favor of countries such as China and Japan, which employ the bulk of their GDP to provide care to citizens and job opportunities that are in line with their qualifications."
Economic State of the Arab World in 2018 During the forum's session on the state of the economy in the Arab world in 2018, Jihad Azour, Regional Director of the International Monetary Fund for the Middle East and Central Asia, pointed out that 2018 will be a year of transformation, and that the Arab world will find itself at a crossroad. Azour expected that the Arab world would witness 3.7 per cent for economic growth, stressing that protectionist policies are an obstacle to any chance of stability and growth
Azour highlighted four main economic challenges facing the Arab world in 2018 - adapting to the post-oil era to build a new economy, structural reforms, reducing the impact of conflicts and the geopolitical situation that negatively affect economic growth, and supporting institutions in their fight against waste and corruption.
Global Economic State in 2018 On the global economic state, Dr Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, said that globalization has become a reality imposed on the world's nations and is expected to continue in the coming years due to its many advantages, such as increasing the volume of international trade and foreign investments, economic growth and the dissemination of many new concepts and ideas.
Stiglitz explained that globalization is still unfair to several parties. Many countries have been affected by globalization and are still suffering from economic crises. He noted that developed countries have not escaped the disadvantages of globalization. He said that Trump's tax policies, for example, have led to discontent and dissatisfaction with the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the United States.
Political State of the Arab World in 2018 With regard to the state of the Arab world politically in 2018, Fawaz Gerges, professor of international relations at The London School of Economics and Political Science, predicted that the confused state of the America foreign policy is continuing especially after the US President's announcement on Jerusalem. Gerges described Trump as being out of touch and disturbing the pillars of American influence in the Arab world and across the globe. He said the US President would not be involved in a direct conflict with Iran, stressing that the absence of any American foreign policy strategy or vision as well as Trump's decisions in 2017 will hurt American interests in the future and undermine the soft power that America has built over the years
Gerges also believed that there will be no change in the status quo in Syria. He noted that Yemen will face a situation of growing tribal conflicts and retaliation, while Iraq heads towards relative stability.
Arab Gulf's Geopolitical Situation in 2018
Speaking on the Arab Gulf's geopolitical situation in 2018, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed, journalist and media expert, said: "The dispute will soon be resolved, and we expect Qatar to return to the GCC fold before end-2018."
Commenting on the state of Saudi Arabia, Al-Rashed said: "The Kingdom is witnessing radical transformations in all aspects of life compared to the past three decades. With regard to foreign policy, Saudi Arabia is today very active and different. We are also witnessing massive social changes internally, in addition to ambitious projects and young leaders who are driving the country towards a new phase of development well-aligned with the requirements of modern times."
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