Some great quote ran around during the second day -
"If goods do not cross borders - Armies will" -Sam Hamdon, French Liberal Economist (Must be the only one...)
Al Makhtoum, Dubai's leader gave a great speech in the middle of the second day. he illustrated the danger in the current state of education in the middle east by bringing up two statistics:
- "Arab books printed last year represent only 0.08% of the total books printed - less than the books in Turkey" - very sad given the great Arab scholars of previous ages.
- "Due to unemployment the region is short 15M jobs, and given rate of population increase the region needs to manufacture 75M new jobs in the near future" - Definitely not a sustainable situation, requiring an immediate shift in priorities in favor of education.
Then he announced an amazing endowment of $10B fund (yes that was not a typo...ten billion us dollars) - dedicated to building knowledge base, research and leadership in the private and public sector across the region. The endowment will provide scholarships to the best universities around teh world, construct research centers in the Middle East and invest in the creation of mid market companies across all sectors. They will focus on the improvement of governnance and creation of job opportunities.
I loved the statement he used
"Get out of tone of dispare and arm our people with opportunities, motivate the young to explore the unknown - it is our responsibility to encourage them and motivate them."
Arming the young with opportunities is the right tool to put in their hands. If this mega initiative works it could be a key transformative initiative in this region. Improving the real natural resource of the Middle East - the young kids.
Again, an echoing of the messages from the first day - echoing the success of "silicon valley" as replicated around the world
"A key advantage to the venture economies is the social acceptance and willingness of people to fail. Countries that do not know how to live with the individual failure will not get the overall growth coming from a swarm of ideas - some good and some failed"
A great comment later from Rachid - minister of trade of Egypt
" Governments are realizing that they work for their local businesses - they have to set the policy that will make the businesses succeed or their economy will stop growing. The policy has to encourage companies to take risks"
to understand the countries that transformed themselves one must look at Sheikh Mohammad Al Khalifa's observation about his country - Bahrain - where oil is only 11% of the GDP but financial services already account for 26% of the GDP - showing the road for a country that will become a net importer of energy in 7 years' time.
Minister Rachid from Egypt made a very interesting observation that shows how much the region understands the short lived nature of this oil boom -
" the future does not depend on oil - it depends on people. Look at history and learn about the future"
"The world will not accept that all the money syphons off to the region through a global "oil tax" - they will invest in other solutions"
At the end we had a great panel about the future of green energy - but that's in another post.