Calls for private-sector led development in the Arab world

LONDON // The private sector will be key to closing the annual “infrastructure gap” in the Arab world, a panel of senior economic and business leaders has said.

Less of a reliance on government will be vital as the region grapples with a dearth of facilities in sectors as diverse as energy and education, speakers said at last week’s Telegraph Middle East Congress in London.

Dimitris Tsitsiragos, the vice president and leader of global investment operations at the International Finance Corporation, said the “infrastructure gap” in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) amounts to US$100 billion a year.

“There is a role for the public sector but the growth is going to come from the private sector,” Mr Tsitsiragos said. “Historically in Mena, the public sector has been the employer of choice, and this is something that governments need to change.”

Ahmed Demerdash Badrawi, the managing director at Sodic, one of Egypt’s largest listed property developers, gave a stark example of the inefficiencies in his country.

“The public sector comprises 6 million employees. And there’s a statistic I read that the time it takes to get a building permit out in Egypt is over six months, compared with 29 days, for example, in South Korea,” he said.

“The private sector needs to be left alone,” he added. “It’s proven that we’re the ones that can perform, we will create jobs.”

Panellists gave examples of private-sector work in action. Ahmed Badreldin, a senior partner at Abraaj Group, said the UAE was notable in facilitating the private sector in the education sector.

Ibrahim Al Zubi, a senior consultant at the Dubai Land Department, pointed to the Dubai Expo 2020 as an “excellent example” of how public-private partnerships will be put to work in the region.

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Ben Flanagan

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