The prospects for Arab economic development in the nineties is a highly complex subject that does not easily lend itself to generalizations valid for all countries. As is well known, the countries of the region vary greatly. For the oil countries, development will depend to a very large extent on what happens in the oil markets. Despite intensive efforts to diversify their economies, these countries are still heavily dependent on oil as the major source of income. Other countries may not be so heavily dependent on oil, but a good part of their growth is derived from the oil countries through workers’ remittances, development assistance, and Arab investment and trade. Still another group of countries is only remotely affected by the fortunes of the oil countries and is more concerned with developments in the export markets for their principal products. In addition to variations based on oil resources, Arab countries differ a great deal with respect to levels of development, per capita incomes, whether they export or import capital, and the extent to which they follow inward-looking or export-oriented development strategies. These variations complicate the task of assessing development prospects in the current decade.
Despite adverse exogenous factors, Arab countries have achieved important economic gains in recent years. Nevertheless, many of them remain subject to internal and external constraints that prevent the full realization of their considerable economic potential. The welfare gains forgone are of particular relevance in the current environment, characterized, inter alia, by rapid population growth in some countries in the region, concerns about the availability of natural resources (namely, water), uncertain oil prices, and a move outside the Middle East toward regional economic blocs combined with slow progress in multilateral trade liberalization efforts.