The conference speakers sounded pessimistic in regards to the year of 2009, estimating that the Arab states' growth rate this year would be lower than 4%.
This relatively low rate will increase the pressure on Arab economies, as their unemployment rates are estimated today at about 14%.
Adnan al-Qasar, president of the Arab countries' Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, declared that the Arab capital market lost some $2.5 trillion as a result of failed investments in foreign markets. Local capital markets lost another $600 billion as a result of the global crisis and the drop in oil prices.
Al-Qasar estimated, however, that the Arab countries, led by the Gulf states, would be able to overcome the crisis due to the high foreign currency reserves they accumulated in 2008. The reserves collected by the six Gulf countries were estimated at some $1.5 trillion at the end of 2008.
Many of the conference's participants said that the obvious conclusion from the crisis was that Arab businessmen should invest their money in local markets, rather than expose themselves to unnecessary risks abroad.
Doron Peskin is head of research at Info-Prod Research (Middle East) Ltd.