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U.S. urged to increase exchanges with Arab world

05-12-2011 16:50 BJT

LOS ANGELES, May 11 (Xinhua) -- The United States should increase its links with the Arab world after the killing of Osama bin Laden, according to a leading U.S. think tank.

The recommendation is contained in a technical report prepared by the RAND Corporation for the U.S. Air Force and Department of Defense to help them assess likely demographic and economic challenges in the Arab world through 2020.

The report, released Tuesday, recommends U.S. policy toward Arab migrants residing, or attempting to reside in the United States and Europe be an increasingly important factor influencing their host-government policies toward the Arab and Muslim worlds.

At a minimum, policymakers should recognize that Arab and Muslim communities abroad are now a critical part of the regional equation and would provide an increasingly important window into political futures in the region itself, according to the report.

The report said procedures to provide tourist, student, and business visas to the United States could have major effects on U.S. influence in the region. The large numbers of Arabs who have studied, lived, and worked in the United States had been a major source of U.S. influence in the region.

It suggested the U.S. government should carefully review current procedures to ensure both that they prevent the entry of individuals seeking to harm the United States but also that Arabs seeking to visit the country to study, visit, or conduct business are able to visit the country and are treated with respect when doing so.

The report also suggested Washington provide assistance programs to support family planning initiatives across the region. More U.S. funding to train local staff to conduct outreach and to make contraceptives more widely available would be valuable, as would more indirectly supporting female education.

The report, "Future Challenges for the Arab World: The Implications of Demographic and Economic Trends," also analysed the economic outlook for the region and the role played by oil.

The world would continue to depend on oil pumped from the Arab region, especially the Persian Gulf, for the foreseeable future. The region would continue to account for a third of global production in 2020, it said.

Even if rates of depletion were higher than previously estimated and production costs in the Persian Gulf doubled or tripled their current levels, the Gulf states would remain the world's lowest-cost producers, it said.

But, despite their oil riches, the "energy-rich" countries in the region fell on hard times after the oil boom of the 1970s, RAND said.

In most countries in the Gulf, per capita gross domestic product (GDP) in constant-dollar terms was still below previous peaks.

Economic output in the energy-rich, especially the smaller Gulf states, would continue to be closely linked to oil output and prices, it said.

However, oil and gas exports would serve more as a foundation than a driver of growth. Only in Iraq and Qatar were increases in oil production likely to exceed population growth through 2020. Although energy would continue to provide a ready source of revenues to governments, the key to increasing per capita incomes would be increasing factor productivity, according to the report.

The report said continued expansion and integration of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) would do much to increase competition and improve factor productivity in those countries.

The report suggested privatization of non-energy-sector assets and said a more aggressive approach to privatization would generate additional benefits in terms of accelerated growth in factor productivity.

If oil prices continued to stay substantially higher than their average levels of the 1990s, the citizens of the smaller countries should continue to enjoy high levels of income and continued growth, the report said.

Institutional reform would not be the sole factor determining economic growth. For most of the energy-poor nations, internal and external security would remain a key determinant of growth, the report said.

As shown by the recent events in the region, countries suffered economically from conflict, either domestic or from spillover effects from neighboring states, the report said.

Countries suffered substantial economic losses from unrest and conflict, especially from falloffs in tourism revenues. If security remained a major problem, economic growth would suffer, it said, citing the impact of unrest on tourism revenues in Egypt and Tunisia.

Editor:Yang Jie |Source: Xinhua

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