An examination of the extent of and the potential for Arab economic integration / by Mohamed Elafif Elafif, Mohamed

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Elafif, Mohamed
University of Western Sydney (2001); International economic integration - Middle East.; Arab cooperation.
The main objective of this thesis is to examine the extent of and the potential for Arab economic integration. It adds to the growing literature on the issue of economic integration by throwing the spotlight on several issues hitherto little considered in the existing literature. The thesis especially blends various aspects of economic integration with models of spatial competition, economic geography, regionalisation and globalisation to explain the problems of and prospects for economic integration for the Arab countries. It is important to realise that economic integration has become an important aim for almost all countries in the world; in particular, less developed countries, which need more economic efforts to be able to deal with the current international milieu and the gale of globalisation. The Arab countries have engaged in a number of initiatives to advance economic integration, however despite this the degree of economic integration among them is still relatively insignificant. The thesis also attempts to offer theoretical models to explain the obstacles preventing economic integration in the Arab world. This thesis is, to the best of the author’s knowledge and belief, the first rigorous study of the extent of and the potential for Arab economic integration through three vital economic perspectives: trade, investment and labour flows. In the first perspective, this study investigates the nature of intra-Arab trade and which particular countries/sub-group of countries may potentially become an integrated regional production system, or hub. This investigation is done within the scope of gravity models, which assume that intra-trade is a function of the GDPs of the involved countries and the distance between them. The thesis extends the literature by introducing spatial models and models of new economic geography to explain how economic integration evolves in the current international milieu concomitantly driven by globalisation and regionalisation. In the second perspective, this study investigates intra-Arab FDI and capital mobility. The postulated model assumes that intra-Arab FDI is a function of a number of economic variables, such as GDP, GDP per capita, inflation and purchasing power parity. The thesis offers a comprehensive theoretical model to explain how successful economic integration can be carried out by FDI flows. In the third perspective, the study investigates intra-Arab labour flows. The proposed model utilises remittances as an indicator of labour flows. It assumes that remittances are a function of some economic variables, such as GDP per capita, the real price of oil, and the oil production of Saudi Arabia, which represents the main Arab host country of Arab labour flows. The proposed theoretical model offers insights into the dynamics of labour flows and oil price movements. The econometric study in the thesis applies panel data for the period 1985-2005, and employs Ordinary Least Squares (OLS) fixed effects regression. The most important empirical finding of the study is that Arab economic integration has been significantly affected by intra-trade, intra-FDI and intra-labour flows among sub-unions of Arab countries.
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