At the World Economic Forum in Sharm el Sheikh, Egypt, President George Bush encouraged countries in the Middle East to undertake economic reforms. Mr. Bush noted that the rising price of oil has brought great wealth to some countries in the region. But the supply of oil is limited and over time, nations in the Middle East will have to diversify their economies.
The way to do that, said Mr. Bush, is by making reforms that unleash individual creativity and innovation. Citizens who would like to start their own companies need to be able to do so quickly, without high regulatory and registration costs. Entrepreneurs in the Middle East also need to have confidence that governments will protect property rights.
One of the most powerful engines of economic growth is free trade, said President Bush:
"So, nations in this region [Middle East] would benefit greatly from breaking down barriers to trade with each other. And America will continue to open up trade at every level. In recent years, the United States has completed free trade agreements with Jordan, Oman, Morocco, and Bahrain. America will continue to negotiate bilateral free trade agreements in the region."
The demand for employment in the Middle East continues to escalate as the population grows. The key to meeting this need is an educated workforce, starting with primary schools that teach basic skills like math and reading, not the extremist ideologies of the madrassas. An educated workforce also requires good high schools and universities.
Building vibrant economies in the Middle East also demands the participation of women. "No nation," said President Bush, "that cuts off half its population from opportunities will be as productive or prosperous as it could be."
"Expanding freedom," said Mr. Bush, "is vital to turning temporary wealth into lasting prosperity. Free societies stimulate competition in the marketplace. Free societies give people access to information they need to make informed and responsible decisions." Free societies, said President Bush, expose corruption and build confidence in the future.