Voices from the Arab Press: Economic Development in the Age of Big Data

The Egypt we all want... a country whose policies are guided by, and grounded in, real-world evidence.

June 19, 2019 22:40
Voices from the Arab Press: Economic Development in the Age of Big Data

A WORKER carries goods for shops at Al Ataba, in Cairo on June 16.. (photo credit: MOHAMED ABD EL GHANY/REUTERS)


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Economic Development in the Age of Big Data

Al-Masry al-Youm, Egypt, June 14

“Data is power.” This is a fact of life that we must accept, in Egypt, if we are to see our country reassume its position as the leader of the Arab world. We now live in the Age of Information, where data guides the most important decision-making processes pertaining to politics, economics and even social life. The difference between highly developed countries and developing ones is the extent to which they gather and manage accurate and reliable data about all elements of their society.
The possession of this information is what allows highly successful nations to understand the nature and fabric of their societies, assess their strengths and weaknesses, and evaluate their populations’ abilities and needs. Through this kind of data, these countries manage to glean insight about the optimal way in which they can push their peoples forward.
If we want Egypt to become a part of the advanced world, we must take this path to development. This must start from the top, with our government. The Egyptian state must collect comprehensive data about all elements of our economy and society. This kind of information collection must become an integral component of the state’s behavior.
It is not an exaggeration to say that a nationwide data campaign in Egypt might be the single most important project our government will ever take upon itself. There is truly no way to create long-lasting and continuous knowledge unless there is consistent data collection. Over the past few decades, the Egyptian state has suffered from a severe lack of information about its citizens, their levels of education, their aspirations and goals, and indicators about their well-being and happiness.
This prevents the government from responding to the most critical needs of its citizens. Without information, we cannot move Egypt forward. The Egypt we all want, which has its seat in the developed world, is a country whose policies are guided by, and grounded in, real-world evidence. This evidence will only come from the data we collect. This is our most important challenge.
– Abd al-Latif al-Menawy

Regime Change in Tehran is Becoming Inevitable

Al-Arab, London, June 13

The nuclear agreement signed between the P5+ and Iran was not an end goal for the Iranian regime, but rather a means of achieving a greater end. It cannot be denied that the five permanent members of the Security Council viewed the agreement as a critical objective and thus invested immense effort into bringing it to life. But at the same time, it cannot be ignored that Iran viewed the agreement as a bridge to pursue an expansionist project to which the Obama administration turned a blind eye.
Only two European countries, France and Britain, demanded to go beyond what the agreement stipulates and hold Iran accountable to its actions outside the nuclear realm. France, for instance, stressed the danger of the Iranian ballistic missile program, while Britain warned against terrorist activities carried out by Iranian proxies, such as Hezbollah, throughout Europe and the West.
There is no need, of course, to mention the positions of China and Russia, which have always sided with Tehran and adopted its stance wholeheartedly. Since US President Donald Trump reneged on the deal, the political impasse between Washington and Tehran entered a new level. Slowly but surely, Iran began to feel the impact of the American sanctions on its economy. It also noticed the cold shoulder given it by its European counterparts, who had no choice but to align themselves with the United States.
 However, the fear of real physical war between Iran and the United States remains minimal. There is virtually no American appetite for an armed clash with Iran at the moment. Similarly, the mullahs seem to understand the message they’ve been sent. Therefore, there is no room for any Iranian attempts to remarket the nuclear agreement and demand new negotiations with the P5+.
Europe itself is not convinced that Iran changed its intentions, and the US administration knows very well all the details of Iranian behavior in the last 40 years. Iran’s insistence on developing nuclear weapons achieved nothing but sending the region into a nuclear arms race.
Iran has long lost the war it thought it had waged against the United States. This is because it has not built a strong economy, has not established a robust political system, and has not been successful at convincing others of its ideology.
The real question now is whether Iran will change by reforming itself and getting rid of the mullah regime. I believe this is an inevitable change that is bound to happen, even if Trump and his secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, repeatedly deny the claim that the United States is seeking regime change in Iran.
– Kheir Allah Kheir Allah

PASSENGERS ARE seen on June 13 outside Saudi Arabia’s Abha International Airport after it was attacked by an area Houthi group. (Credit: FAISAL AL NASSER/ REUTERS)

A War in the Gulf Would be on Iran’s Shoulders

Asharq al-Awsat, London, June 16

A wide host of world leaders recently called for a lowering of tensions in the Middle East. Chinese President Xi Jinping claimed that “nobody wants to see a war in the Gulf.” So did the president of the United States, the prime minister of Japan, and several representatives of the European Union. Even the Iranian president, Hassan Rouhani, made similar remarks. But words are one thing and actions are another.
If we take a close look at the behavior of each one of the actors I mentioned above, it quickly becomes clear that the only country that does not stand by its words is Iran. Iran has no intention in reducing tensions in the Gulf. Even if we ignore its rhetoric and its involvement in other countries’ internal affairs, Tehran’s actions still provide ample reason for concern.
Just last week, its Houthi militias in Yemen blew up a major pipeline transporting oil to Saudi Arabia. A few weeks earlier, satellite imagery revealed that four Emirati ships had been targeted by Iranian missiles in the Gulf of Oman. And the list goes on and on. Each one of these examples alone would suffice to understand that Iran is actively trying to stir the pot and lead to a full-scale war in the Middle East.
Therefore, its statements about the need to reach a diplomatic resolution with the United States are simply not credible. Everything Iran has been doing to date suggests that war is coming to our region. If the mullahs continue with their aggressive policies, the moderate Arab world will have no choice but to resort to war.
In the case of most countries, war is an option of last resort. In Iran’s case, it seems to be the preferred option.
– Salman al-Dossari

Sincerity Begins with Us

Al-Qabas, Kuwait, June 15

Last week’s missile attack on the Abha International Airport, which resulted in the injury of 26 passengers who were waiting in the arrivals hall, constitutes a crossing of a red line that no sane Arab country should tolerate.
Houthi rocket attacks have been carried out against the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in the past, but this attack is a game changer. It managed to shut down an international airport serving thousands of passengers and dozens of international airlines. It is also a blatant war crime targeting innocent civilians.
We in the Gulf are tired of hearing condemnations from the international community. The time has come to move beyond words and into actions. Gulf countries must stand up for themselves and move beyond empty promises and take action that will stop this kind of barbaric attacks carried out by the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
In this context, Kuwait has been one of the first countries to stand up in solidarity with Saudi Arabia. The speech given last week by His Highness Emir Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah was a clear manifestation of the brotherhood that exists between the two countries. Kuwait will not tolerate any aggressive behavior in the region and will take any action necessary to deter those who defy the stability of the Arab Gulf.
The security of Saudi Arabia is tantamount to the security of the entire region. Therefore, we must all side with our older sister, Saudi Arabia, and fight the “little Satan” in Yemen that executes Iran’s agenda while playing a destructive game that will inevitably drag all of us into war. Let us embrace the interest of our peoples and the stability of our region. We must leave behind our empty promises and begin taking real action. Sincerity begins with us.
– Al-Qabas Editorial Board

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