Finally, a rich Arab has come forward with a major offer of help to Middle Eastern refugees.
Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian billionaire, tweeted on September 1 that he was willing to buy an island from Greece or Italy to “host the migrants” and not hold back on any financing needed to make it a permanent home. He even suggested that it can become a new country called Hope. (Though he also suggested it could be “at least temporary until they can return to their countries.”)
The reaction on social media to Sawiris’s generous offer has been largely positive. After all, who would criticize a successful world citizen for a willingness to do what most governments are reluctant to do to address the current crisis?
But few in the media or diplomatic circles have asked the more important question: Where have the rich Arab countries been over the last few years, as the Syrian civil war has raged and millions of refugees have fled to neighboring countries? The only Arab countries to have accepted Syrian refugees are Jordan and Lebanon, two weak economies with very limited means. To be sure, rich Arab countries have sent some aid to refugees in Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, but no major plan has even been offered that would appear to be aimed at making a serious difference.
Greece or Italy sell me an island,ill call its independence and host the migrants and provide jobs for them building their new country— Naguib Sawiris (@NaguibSawiris) September 1, 2015
Consider the financial means at the disposal of five energy-rich Arab countries: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain. Their combined GDP is about $2 trillion a year, and their combined population is under 55 million people. That translates into a per capita annual income in the poorest member of this group, Bahrain, of more than $21,000 and a per capita gross national income in the richest, Qatar, of $90,000.