Arab League in dire financial straits

Each Arab League member is sup­posed to contribute to league’s budget based on number of its nationals working for organisa­tion.

A 2016 picture shows Arab Foreign ministers and delegation members attending an annual meeting at the Arab League headquarters in Cairo. (Reuters)

2017/02/05 Issue: 92 Page: 12

The Arab Weekly
Ahmed Megahid

Cairo - The Arab League is in the midst of a financial crisis that is making it hard for the 22-member organisa­tion to maintain humani­tarian activities or even pay the salaries of its employees.

“Member states lag behind the deadline for paying their share of the 2017 budget,” said Adnan al- Khodeir, assistant Arab League sec­retary-general for financial affairs. “We have appealed to Arab govern­ments to speed up the payment of their contribution to the budget or we will fail to carry out our job.”

Arab governments were sup­posed to have paid their annual share of the budget by the begin­ning of January but only 14% of the $64 million budget has been financed and that was all paid by Kuwait.

In 2016, only 38% of the funds needed for the proposed budget was paid.

The lack of finances has crip­pled the league at every turn. It has failed to conduct most of the hu­manitarian missions it had planned for war-torn and poverty-stricken areas, such as Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Sudan. These projects were ap­proved at the Arab League summit last July in Mauritania.

Each Arab League member is sup­posed to contribute to the league’s budget based on the number of its nationals working for the organisa­tion. Egypt used to pay 65% of the budget of the league because that percentage of Arab League employ­ees were Egyptian. In 2012, Saudi Arabia replaced Egypt, which was struggling with economic and po­litical unrest, as the largest budget contributor.

One Arab League employee said instead of receiving her salary for December on the 25th of the month as usual, she received it on Janu­ary 19th. “My colleagues and I are certain that the salary for January might not come at all,” said the em­ployee, who requested anonymity.

Arab League spokesman Hossam Zaki said: “The league has limited financial resources, which is why it needs to cut down its spending. The lack of funds has actually ren­dered the league incapable of offer­ing support to Arab people in need.”

Observers accuse some Arab gov­ernments of withholding contribu­tions to the budget of the league to put pressure on Arab League Secre­tary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit.

“Funding is turning into some Arab countries’ pressure card to ef­fect change in the Arab League,” said Abdullah al-Ashaal, Egypt’s former assistant Foreign minister. “Some Arab states have interest in undermining the league and its new chief.”

Some Arab League members, in­cluding Qatar and Sudan, objected to Aboul Gheit’s nomination to the top post of the Arab League last March. Qatar cited some of his stances when he served as Egypt’s Foreign minister from 2004-11.

Khodeir said the financial crisis would undermine the league in the coming months, including its bid to prepare for the Arab League sum­mit, scheduled for March in Jordan.

“This is why I say this financial crisis must come to an end very quickly,” Khodeir said. “This is a crisis that will bring most of the ac­tivities of the league to a total halt.”

Ahmed Meghid is an Egyptian reporter based in Cairo.

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