Why Arabs Are Backward

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The poor Arab Street
Jul 3rd 2002
From The Economist Global Agenda

A new report from the United Nations analyses why the Arab world has fallen so far short of its potential. Its answer? Three deficits: of freedom, of knowledge and of womanpower. But without progress, a disaffected populace is turning its anger on the West AFP|

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Women in the shadows|
WHAT went wrong with the Arab world? Why is it so stuck behind the times? It is not an automatically unlucky region. Fatly endowed with oil, and with its people sharing a rich cultural, religious and linguistic heritage, it is faced neither with endemic poverty nor with ethnic conflict. It shook off its colonial or neo-colonial legacies long ago, and the countries that had revolutions should have had time to recover from them. But, with barely an exception, its autocratic rulers, be they presidents or kings, give up their authority only when they die, its elections are a sick joke, half its people are treated as lesser legal and economic beings, and more than half its young, burdened by joblessness and stifled by conservative religious tradition, are said to want to get out as soon as they can. Across dinner tables, from Morocco to the Gulf, but above all in Egypt, the Arab world’s natural leader, Arab intellectuals endlessly ask one another how and why things turned out so badly. A team of such scholars has now spent a year putting their experience to diagnostic use in “Arab Human Development Report 2002”, which was published this week by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The Arab world’s strengths consume little space in the report; the failings are what interest the writers. For the past ten years, the UNDP’s human development reports and index (HDI) have been gauging a country’s performance by its record in life expectancy, school enrolment and adult literacy as well as by its income per head. This is the programme’s first comprehensive look at a separate region. The Arab world...
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