Abu-Ghazaleh Interviewed by Dow Jones during WSIS II

23 Nov 2005

INTERVIEW: U.S. Mideast Policy Benefits Arab Business

By John W. Miller
Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
487 words
17 November 2005
11:44
Dow Jones Asian Equities Report
English
(c) 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

TUNIS (Dow Jones)--Despite its widespread unpopularity, the U.S. Middle East policy is having unintended benefits for the Arab business world, the head of the region’s biggest business-services firm said in an interview.

As an Arab expert who lends his consulting expertise to hundreds of U.S. companies, Abu-Ghazaleh, a 67-year-old Jordanian, is one of the most solicited of this summit’s 23,000 participants. Officials from everywhere from Microsoft to the Pentagon lined up to chat before and after his 20 scheduled speeches. "We don’t agree with the ’security world’ U.S. policy is creating, but it is forcing companies to become more transparent and more accountable," said Talal Abu-Ghazaleh, head of the Cairo-based Talal Abu-Ghazaleh Organization, which, with 50 offices and 900 lawyers, accountants and consultants on staff, is the largest such Arab group. "Every cloud has a silver lining."

He was speaking during a three-day United Nations summit focusing on the Internet and on how to spread new technology to the Third World.

The main challenge that Western-style capitalism faces in the Arab world, he argued, "is a culture of secrecy and discretion, which I’m committed to changing."

The secrecy discourages investment from venture capitalists and other financial companies, he said.

He has been asserting at regional conferences "that some things can be kept secret, but the right things have to be brought out into the open," he said.

Because if financial information is kept secret, he explained, Arab companies will get shut out of deals with U.S. companies who will trust only fully transparent operations. The transparency extends to accounting, too, he said. "Sarbanes-Oxley is also about providing more security."

With oil money, "we will see a boom in the next five years even better than the 1970s, regardless of politics and not just in oil countries," he said. "That will lead to unprecedented investment in infrastructure, which will trickle down to the private sector."

The economy, he said, "will flourish regardless of war or peace because we’ve seen that business can thrive no matter what the security situation."

High tech companies continue to face obstacles in selling their services in the region, in particular, widespread computer illiteracy and the high cost of internet connectivity, he said.

"Only 15% of Arabs know how to use a computer and connectivity cost is currently 20 times what it is in the U.S.," he added. –

Company Website: www.tagorg.com --By John W. Miller; john.miller@dowjones.com;
00-32-472-216-796 [ 17-11-05 1644GMT ]

Document AER0000020051117e1bh00069



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