December 12, 2008
The Arab world is experiencing an economic boom of historic proportions, albeit one felt unevenly across the region and subject to reversal. The key issue over the next decade is the ability of these economies to generate jobs and raise living standards for the millions of young people joining the economy. This is not a conjectural forecast—the members of this population cohort are already going through school and many have already entered the labor force. Given the brittleness of the region’s political regimes, the mass of unemployed educated young people represents a potential threat to political stability. Yet the region is also currently experiencing the most rapid economic growth in a generation. In effect the region faces a contest between two opposing forces—the demographic pressure to create jobs and the capacity of the economy to absorb new entrants productively, and it is an open issue as to which will prevail. The key issue is how much of the recent growth acceleration—generated in large part by commodity and asset market booms—is permanent and how much is transitory. In short, will the future look more like the last five years or the last fifty?
Marcus Noland is a Senior Fellow at the Peterson Institute for International Economics and a Non-resident Fellow at the East-West Center. He was a Senior Economist at the Council of Economic Advisers in the Executive Office of the President of the United States, and has held research or teaching positions at Yale University, the Johns Hopkins University, the University of Southern California, Tokyo University, Saitama University (now the National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies), the University of Ghana, and the Korea Development Institute. Noland has authored, co-authored, or edited numerous books including Pacific Basin Developing Countries: Prospects for the Future and Korea After Kim Jong-il; Japan in the World Economy (co-authored with Bela Balassa); Pacific Dynamism and the International Economic System (co-edited with C. Fred Bergsten); Reconcilable Differences? Resolving United States-Japan Economic Conflict (co-authored with Bergsten); Economic Integration of the Korean Peninsula (editor); Global Economic Effects of the Asian Currency Devaluations (co-authored with Li-Gang Liu, Sherman Robinson, and Zhi Wang); No More Bashing: Building a New Japan-United States Economic Relationship (co-authored with Bergsten and Takatoshi Ito); Industrial Policy in an Era of Globalization: Lessons from Asia (co-authored with Howard Pack); and Famine in North Korea: Markets, Aid, and Reform (co-authored with Stephan Haggard). His book, Avoiding the Apocalypse: the Future of the Two Koreas, won the prestigious Ohira Memorial Prize. Noland’s most recent book, co-authored with Howard Pack, is Arab Economies in a Changing World. In addition to these books he has written many scholarly articles on international economics, US trade policy, and the economies of the Asia-Pacific region. He has served as an occasional consultant to organizations such as the World Bank and the National Intelligence Council, and has testified before the US Congress on numerous occasions.