A new economic forecast of Arab economies by the United Nations has painted a gloomy picture of the region. The spread of the coronavirus pandemic is expected to exact a heavy toll causing economies to contract by 5.7 per cent and the loss of some $152 billion.
The forecast for some Arab countries is gloomier with economies expected to shrink by as much as 13 per cent, according to the report compiled by the UN's Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
Another 14.3 million people may be pushed into poverty, raising the total number to 115 million – a quarter of the total Arab population, the report said.
With more than 55 million people in the region relying on humanitarian aid before the COVID-19 crisis, including 26 million who were forcibly displaced, many countries are expected to struggle with the added burden.
Though Arab countries moved quickly to deal with the spread of the coronavirus, preventing the rate of death seen in the UK and US, they face an impossible task in shielding their economies from the anticipated global recession in the post-corona era.
A separate report published by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this month painted a gloomier picture for the Gulf countries. The oil-rich states are expected to see their economies shrink by as much as 7.6 per cent, the monetary body concluded.
Despite its depressing forecast, the UN urged Arab countries to see this as an opportunity. "Turn this crisis into an opportunity" and address longstanding issues, including weak public institutions, economic inequality and over-reliance on fossil fuels, said Rola Dashti, the head of the UN commission. "We need to invest in survival, survival of people and survival of businesses," she added.