GCC Seeks Common Power Grid


The council, which met  to prepare for the March 28-29 summit, discussed a report on the Arab customs union, a project for sustainable agricultural development; measures to improve educational standards and a plan to improve health facilities. It also reviewed Arab and international economic developments.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Al-Assaf said the council discussed an executive program for the customs union. He urged members to set out a time frame to implement the free trade zone project.

Al-Assaf emphasized the need for lifting all trade barriers including customs tariffs to promote inter-Arab trade. “We don’t need more resolutions,” he said and hoped that all countries would do the needful to achieve economic integration by carrying out previous agreements. “I have great hope in you,” he told ministers.

Al-Assaf urged the ministers to adopt appropriate recommendations on the power grid project and the agricultural development strategy. “Establishment of a customs union is one of the important subjects to be taken up by the summit,” he said.

Muhammad Al-Tuwaijeri, assistant Arab League secretary-general for economic affairs, and Nansi Al-Bekair, assistant secretary-general for social affairs, were present at the press conference.

Speaking about financial support to the Palestinian Authority, Al-Assaf said the summit would take a decision on providing financial support and promoting Palestinian products.

The last summit in Khartoum had decided to provide a financial assistance of $ 50 million annually. “Last summer, Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah donated SR250 million for the reconstruction of Palestine.”

Answering a question, Al-Bekair said the changes in curricula in Arab countries were not because of any foreign pressure after the 9/11 attacks. “It’s a continuous process and is aimed at the younger generation keeping pace with new developments and meeting job market requirements,” she said.

She added that there are 71 million illiterate people in the Arab world and this is a major obstacle to progress and proper upbringing of children. “The educational development should cover all levels, from primary to higher education,” she said, adding that three documents on educational development have been presented to the secretary-general, with observations of 14 Arab states.

Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who attended the meeting, said experts must study the factors hindering educational progress in the Arab world and present their recommendations to respective governments. He said the present education system in the Arab world could not be marketed internationally in this age of globalization.

Moussa said there should be short-term and long-term plans for the free trade zone. He said the Arab economy has crossed $ 1 trillion for the first time. “The reason was mainly an increase in oil export that represented 70 percent of total exports, as well as economic reforms. But this economic growth has not helped reduce unemployment rate in the desired manner,” he said. The official unemployment rate in the Arab world reached 14 percent in 2005.

Ahmed Kattan, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the Arab League, said the Kingdom and Egypt had presented a working paper on Arab security during a meeting of Arab League officials who met here yesterday for summit preparations. He said there were proposals to hold a consultative summit, an economic summit and an Afro-Arab summit.

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