The world’s four largest companies are richer than all but two of the Middle East’s leading economies. Turkey and Saudi Arabia are the only exceptions to this case.
Of the top 10 largest global companies in 2009, 7 are in the business of energy and hydrocarbons, 4 of them are from the USA, and 2 from the Netherlands.
Here they are in ranking by revenues (source: CNNMoney.com’s Fortune magazine):
- Royal Dutch Shell, revenues of: $458.4 billion (Netherlands) Hydrocarbons
- Exxon Mobil: $442.9 billion (USA) Hydrocarbons
- Wal-Mart: $405.6 billion (USA)
- BP: $367.1 billion (Britain) Hydrocarbons
- Chevron: $263.2 billion (USA) Hydrocarbons
- Total: $237.7 billion (France) Hydrocarbons
- ConocoPhillips: $230.8 billion (USA) Hydrocarbons
- ING Group: $226.6 billion (Netherlands)
- Sinopec: $207.8 billion (China) Hydrocarbons
- Toyota Motor: $204.4 billion (Japan)
Here are some of the Middle East’s top economies by GDP (2008, from the World Bank):
Turkey: $734.9 billion
Saudi Arabia: $468.8 billion
Iran: $286.1 billion (2007)
Israel: $202.1 billion
Egypt: $162.3 billion
And now for the top 10 world economies by GDP (2008, from the World Bank):
- USA: $14,093.3 billion
- Japan: $4,910.8 billion
- China: $4,327.0 billion
- Germany: $3,649.5 billion
- France: $2,856.6 billion
- UK: $2,674.1 billion
- Italy: $2,303.1 billion
- Russian Federation: $1,679.5 billion
- Spain: $1,604.2 billion
- Brazil: $1,575.2 billion
Here is quick and rough compilation of statistics on Turkey:
Turkey’s population was estimated to be 74.8 million in 2008, up from 67.4 million in 2000. 27.3 million people are less than 15 years of age, and 6.1 million are 65 and over. (1: Country statistical profile 2010: Turkey — OECD)
68.7% of the population lives in urban areas. (2)
There is 88.7% literacy among adults 15 years and older. (3)
There were 25.4 million (34.4% of the population) Internet users in 2008, up from 9.9 million (13.9%) in 2005. (4: Word Bank statistics, from Download Data spreadsheet)
Spending on healthcare accounted for 5.7% of GDP in 2005 (there is an average of 8.9% in the OECD). The US spends the most on healthcare within the OECD, with 16% of GDP in 2007, followed by France at 11%.
Turkey has the lowest health spending per capita within the OECD.
The share of public spending on healthcare has increased in Turkey from 63% in 2000 to 71% in 2005 (the average in the was OECD 73% in 2005).
Between 1960 and 2007, Turkey has had increase in life expectancy of 23 years, to 71.8 years by 2007 (OECD avg of 79 years).
(5: All data for health sourced from an OECD report here)
Between 2001 and 2007, Turkey’s GDP has increased by 242% to reach $656.6 billion in 2007, to become the 15th largest economy in the world. (6: Captured on June 10, 2010 from the Foreign Economic Relations Board of Turkey, here)
Turkey’s GDP is expected to grow by 6.8% in 2010 compared to a 3.7% average for the OECD. It shrank by 4.9% in 2009, the country’s worst recession in over half a century (7). The recession began in 2008, when the country’s GDP grew by a little less than 1%. (8)
Its GDP in 2008 was $734.9 billion. (9)
Investors in Turkey are diversifying from traditional investments in Europe to include Russia and the Middle East and Brazil as economic demand in Europe remains weak. (10)
Tax revenues made up 18.6% of GDP in 2008. (11: Word Bank statistics, from Download Data spreadsheet)
The country had gross savings at 17.7% of GDP in 2008. (12: Word Bank statistics, from Download Data spreadsheet)
About 31% of income share was held by the wealthiest 10% of the population in 2006. About 2% was held by poorest 10% in the same year. (13: Word Bank statistics, from Download Data spreadsheet) I tried to compare this the situation in the USA but the World Bank’s data spreadsheet did not have recent numbers. It did have numbers for 2000 though, which indicate that the richest 10% of the population held 29.9% of total income while the poorest 10% of the population in the US had 1.9% of income share. By all accounts this gap has since widened.
Unemployment is expected to remain a problem as the population continues to grow. (14)
Unemployment stood at 9.4% in 2008. (15: Word Bank statistics, from Download Data spreadsheet)
Trade accounted for about 26.1% of the share of GDP in 2008, up from 21.6% in 2000. (16)
At the same time, Turkey has a growing negative trade balance, importing more than it exports. (17)
Turkey imported 73% of its energy needs in 2007. (18: Word Bank statistics, from Download Data spreadsheet)
China’s influence in key Middle Eastern countries has increased thanks to its economic clout. It is becoming a primary export market for countries of the region (and much of the world in general), while also making significant and strategic investments in numerous regions.
In the past five years, China has emerged as the major investor in Iran, with an estimated US$120 billion worth of energy investments. Despite the sanctions already in place, trade between the countries grew by 35% in 2008, to $27 billion. In 2009, China signed over $8 billion in new energy investments. Seemingly, there is an emerging China-Iran tandem.
Saudi Arabia and Iran are among China’s biggest suppliers of crude oil.
China is Saudi Arabia’s top export market. Trade between the two countries had increased to US$41.8 billion in 2008. 16,000 Chinese workers were employed in Saudi Arabia in 2009, representing 70 companies.
It is estimated that in 2010 China will be Egypt’s largest trade partner.
The Afghan Research and Evaluation Unit has written the following on the Afghan economy:
Consistent with the current consensus on development held by the donor community and international financial institutions (IFIs), the privatisation process has gained increased momentum in Afghanistan. The government has committed to the privatisation agenda in its Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy (IANDS) and in the Afghanistan Compact agreed upon with the international community in January 2006. This followed the November 2005 approval by the Cabinet to amend the State-Owned Enterprise Law, allowing for the divestment of state enterprises by various means. Fifty four fully state-owned enterprises (SOEs) have been slated for privatisation as going concerns or through liquidation by the end of 2009.
The report states that the total value of these sales is estimated to be US$614, which is small by international standards.
However, the total government budget of Afghanistan in 2008 was around US$685 million, so the sale of public assets amounts to a large share for a country whose assets and resources are very small. The government revenue estimate was provided by Afghanistan’s Minister of Finance, Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, during an interview with foreign press.
With a national budget that is so small, many foreign infrastructure projects have only added to the problem because of their large price tags, which are more suitable to high priced markets in the developed world. Although, at the time of construction, the projects may be fully funded by foreign donors, the maintenance cost of the same infrastructure may be prohibitive, impracticle, or even impossible for the Afghan government to afford without taking loans.
Consider the Louis Berger Group’s contract to build 1,000 schools, each costing US$274,000. In this case, the Afghan government not only has to worry about maintaining the schools, they might not even be usable. In January 2009, Ann Jones, who for years worked in Afghanistan as an aid worker, says that Louis Berger, “already way behind schedule in 2005, had finished only a small fraction of them when roofs began to collapse under the snows of winter.”
Sustaining an Afghan government financially on foreign life support requires multiyear planning from all donors involved. This requires that Afghanistan’s needs be incorporated into the budgets of NATO countries, and that many of the political decisions on funding be made by foreign governments accountable to their own people. There is not much room for self-reliance in this scenario.
Slavoj Zizek, a philosopher and psychoanalyst, speaks on the topic of charity as an integral part of contemporary capitalism, by bringing consumption and charity together within the same gesture of redemption as an ethics light.
You can listen to the audio here, at RSA Events. From 24 November 2009.
This short report review’s The Gaza Strip’s human and economic conditions. The World Bank and the United Nations are the main sources for all information and statistics compiled here.
For more information on the blockade of the Gaza Strip, read an earlier post titled ‘Siege of Gaza‘.
Over 1.4 million Palestinian Arabs live in the the Gaza Strip, an area that is only 360 km2 in area (139 sq. miles). The Gaza Strip is about 40 km long and on average 10 km wide. This makes Gaza one of the most densely populated regions on earth. The problem of overcrowding is compounded by it having one of the fastest growth rates globally.
Gaza City is the largest urban centre, with 400,000 residents, followed by Khan Younis (200,000), and Rafah (150,000).
The Majority of Gazans are refugees which fled or were expelled from the land that is today Israel following the Arab-Israeli War of 1948. Over 3/4 of residents are registered refugees. Most Gazans live in refugee camps.
Over half of these refugees live in eight large camps. These camps depend on UN deliveries of aid for food, health, and education.
The UN states that:
The refugee camps in the Gaza Strip have among the highest population densities in the world. For example, over 80,688 refugees live in Beach camp whose area is less than one square kilometer. This high population density is reflected in the overcrowded UNRWA schools and classrooms.
Over 20% of refugee homes are not connected to a sewage system.
UN estimates the population of the eight camps to be:
o Jabalia 106,846
o Rafah 97,412
o Beach 80,567
o Nuseirat 58,727
o Khan Younis 61,539
o Bureij 29,805
o Maghazi 23,161
o Deir el-Balah 20,215
There are 18 primary healthcare facilities, overstretched, underfunded, and short on supplies. 187 overcrowded schools service the region. There is one vocational and technical training centre in the Gaza Strip, with room for 1,044 to enroll in the program.
The BMJ medical journal published a survey in 2002 indicating that, in the Gaza Strip, “13% of children under 5 years old were suffering from short term malnutrition and almost 18% had long term malnutrition—compared with a level of about 2% in countries that the World Health Organization defines as having moderate malnutrition.” Things are bad when almost a third of children under 5 suffer from malnutrition.
Since 2007, Israel has greatly intensified the blockade of the Gaza Strip, cutting off the region from the outside world, and reducing to a trickle access to essential supplies.
According to the World Bank, since the intensification of the Israeli blockade of Gaza in June 2007:
According to the Palestinian Federation of Industries, the restrictions have led to the suspension of 95% of Gaza’s industrial operations. They can access neither the inputs for production nor the crossings to export what they produce, transforming Gaza into a consumer economy driven by public sector salaries and humanitarian assistance only. The agriculture sector has also been badly hit. Nearly 40,000 workers depend on the agriculture sector in Gaza.
Gaza’s economy has nearly hit rock bottom and is struck there. The World Bank has announced that in 2007 the economy did not grow at all.
Gazans depend on Israeli controlled terminals located on the border of the Strip as the only regular means of access for essential goods to their health and economy.
The Israeli blockade and closure of access to the Gaza Strip has hit the region hard. A World Bank supervised report indicates that the:
AlMontar/Karni terminal is the main crossing for the import and export of commercial goods for the Gaza Strip. Most of the terminal’s operations were halted on the 12th of June, 2007, and since then, only one single-lane conveyor belt continued to operate at an average of two days per week for the imports of wheat, grain and animal feeds.
After June 12, 2007, with intensification of the blockade, the terminal was operational only 27.5% of the time. So, on most days it was closed. From January 1 2007 to June 12 2007, 53,141 truckloads of imports went through the terminal, but after June 12 until the end of 2007 only 2,944 made it through.
The collapse of the economy is evident by looking at the types of imports that went through the main terminal of AlMontar/Karni. Below is a chart replicated from a UN supervised annual report by the Palestinian Trade Center.
These charts show the desperate situation in the Gaza Strip as almost all imports become dedicated to the provision of food to a people suffering from malnutrition.
Poverty is common to the residents of Gaza. The World Bank states that “the percentage of Gazans who live in deep poverty has risen to nearly 35% in 2006, and is expected to have increased further in 2007 and 2008. If revised to exclude remittances and food aid, this poverty rate is closer to 67%.”
The World Bank has reported that, “according to business associations in Gaza, the current restrictions have led to the suspension of 96% of Gaza’s industrial operations.”
Most Gazan industries are export-oriented and have purchase and supply contracts with Israeli and other firms. Gazan manufacturers rely almost entirely on imports for their inputs and until recently, about 76% of their furniture products, 90% of their garments and 20% of their food products were exported to Israel, and some to the West Bank.