The costs of violence mortgage the future of the Arab world

Friday 26/06/2015

A new international report was not necessary to realise that the Arab world is in dire straits.

Still, the 2015 Global Peace Index, published by the Institute for Economics and Peace, revealed the staggering cost of the crisis shaking the Arab world as a result of the ongoing turmoil and civil wars.

According to the report, MENA ranks as the world’s “most violent region”, with Syria, Iraq, Sudan, Libya, Israel and Yemen the most violent countries and Qatar, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Tunisia the least. The region accounts for 73% of global terrorism-related costs. The Arab countries most affected by the violence naturally incur more of the costs than others. And the figures are shocking.

The overall cost of violence in Syria in 2014 is estimated to have been $56 billion — 42% of gross domestic product (GDP). In Iraq, it was $152 billon and 31% of GDP. In Libya, violence in 2014 cost the nation $14.6 billion, 14% of GDP.

Since the civil war began, Syria’s estimated losses amount to about $80 billion, 30% of GDP.

The economic costs of violence enumerated in the index do not include indirect economic consequences, such as the decrease in investments, trade, tourism and growth ratios.

Nor do these figures include the tragic human toll, the tens of thousands killed and the millions displaced.

Another report, the US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism 2014, notes that the number of terrorist attacks world­wide in 2014 increased 35% over the previous year.

MENA is particularly affected. “By a wide margin, the highest numbers of total attacks, total fatalities and total injuries took place in Iraq,” the State Department said. The flow of foreign fighters to Syria (estimated to be about 16,000) was a “significant factor” in the growth of terrorist incidents.

The economic cost of violence affects not only the present but also the future of the Arab world.

Military and security expenditures come at the expense of sorely needed development budgets. Unemployment and poverty remain largely unaddressed. Thousands of young people who could be receiving an education or learning a trade are either dying in the battlefield or trying to emigrate.

The economic cost of violence also mortgages the destiny of future generations who will be left with huge debts to pay and widespread destruction of infrastructure and housing. When the dust of battle settles, the people of the MENA region will find themselves even further behind the rest of the world in terms of development and growth.

Whatever the role played by foreign actors in causing the current crisis, only the citizens of the Arab world can get their houses back in order. It is they who are suffering the consequences of violence.