PHOTO © EBRD
Thomas Mirow is the fifth president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Mr Mirow has worked as the Assistant and then as Chef de cabinet to former German Chancellor Willy Brandt, then Chairman of Germany’s Social Democratic party, and served as Director of the Press Office of the city-state of Hamburg, Mr Mirow held several senior positions within the Hamburg administration between 1991 and 2001, including state minister for economics. He also held several senior management and advisory positions in the private sector. More recently, Mr Mirow was Director General for Economic Policy in the Federal Chancellery in 2005 and appointed State Secretary at the Federal Finance Ministry in November 2005.
The most pressing economic problem for many of the Arab Spring countries and the region is that it has been unable to develop a private sector that is independent, competitive and integrated with global markets. In Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco and Jordan the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development will be focusing on supporting the private sector. In fact, the countries of the region have relatively few private companies, under a third of the number per person in our existing Eastern European countries of operations. The state is the dominating force in the economy.
We will be working hard to remedy that, just as we have done in the former communist world. Strikingly, companies in the southern and eastern Mediterranean are often not part of global supply chains. There is also much less intra-regional trade than there should be. In fact, inter Arab trade, is virtually at the same level as fifty years ago, in terms of the overall percentage of exports. There are too many non-tariff barriers, as well as too much regulation and poor infrastructure. According to some recent studies, it costs companies an average of 95 man days a year just to deal with trade bureaucracies. It is more time consuming and more expensive to move goods between two ports in the region than it is to transfer them to Europe or the United States.
This article was originally published on our partner site, the London School of Economics' EUROPP - European Politics and Policy blog.