Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Balance - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
Select Page

If you were to meet somebody from Aleppo, Syria, and asked him about where he came from, the first thing he would say is Aleppo [before Syria]. It is the “strong” affiliation to the old city, and this was the case in the past when the system of the city-state prevailed and the affiliation to the city was more important than belonging to the state itself. This concept was well known during the Hellenistic and Roman eras and the age of the Venetian Republic. Even in the significant Islamic ages, Damascus, Baghdad and Cairo had remarkable and influential glories. In fact, all of this was a result of the traces left behind from what was known as the old world.

Today, with the expansion of developmental plans in the Arab world, there are strong signs of centralization. The focus on capitals is still at the expense of other regions. In addition, there is no benefiting from the idea of transforming Damascus to “Sham” [Greater Syria] and Cairo to “Misr” [Egypt] in an extremely stark picture of stifling centralization that causes the city to suffer from worries and pains of growth while depriving the other regions of the same opportunities. This would generate a sense of inferiority and lack of interest, resulting in a sense of injustice that leads to indifference and a weakness in the sense of belonging and commitment.

In fact, the nations of the new world have benefited well from the lessons of the past. Consequently, Washington alone is no longer the center of gravity, as there is also New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Boston and Atlanta. Furthermore, Adelaide is not the only important center in Australia; there is also Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. It is also the case in Canada, where Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver and Calgary are important cities. Even in Europe, states began to learn from this lesson well as France is developing Marseille as well as Paris, and in Italy, Milan, Naples and Genoa are being improved along with Rome. The German capital, Berlin, is flourishing from the prosperity of Munich, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Hanover, and Bonn. Finally, in Switzerland, the development of Geneva and Zurich is in progress as well as the capital Berne. The examples are countless.

In order to be sustainable, plans for Arab development must have their share of geographical equity, as it distributes the opportunities and wealth. In turn, this leads to form a moderate society; an end sought by every planner, politician, economist, and sociologist as a noble target that deserves to be accomplished.

In many cases, one of the causes behind the fall of civilizations and nations (whether politically or socio-economically) was the inability of the center to take on the role of improving other regions, thus leading to the collapse of everything and affecting everybody.

Economists and sociologists are tired of writing as they continuously warn against the expansion of development investments at the expense of a large geographical area since limiting development to one geographical location will lead to the stifling of others. However, it is possible to maximize the benefits from this economic opportunity and the enormous developments if they are expanded on a real geographical basis to allow more than one city to enjoy the fruits of development.

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi

Hussein Shobokshi is a businessman and prominent columnist. Mr. Shobokshi hosts the weekly current affairs program Al-Takreer on Al-Arabiya, and in 1995 he was chosen as one of the "Global Leaders for Tomorrow" by the World Economic Forum. He received his BA in Political Science and Management from the University of Tulsa.

More Posts