DUBAI plans to build a replica of India’s world-famous Taj Mahal, four times the size of the original at a cost of $1 billion (Oct 5). Thanks to the technology, the rich Arab state will beat mughal emperor Shah Jahan by building ‘Taj Arabia’ in a record one eleventh of the time taken in building the original.

Is the one billion dollar project a right priority for a rich Arab state is a billion dollar question. Some statistics on state of science and technology and research and development in the Arab world proves it a misplaced priority.

In the world’s top 200 universities (2012), none is in the OIC countries, including oil-rich Arab countries. A July 2012 study by Arab Thought Foundation’s Fikr revealed that an Arab individual on average reads a quarter of a page a year compared to the 11 books read by an American and seven books by a British person.

As percentage of GDP, all Arab states spend 0.22 per cent on research and development, much lower than world average of 1.77 per cent. Similarly, Arab states had 301 researchers per one million inhabitants against world average of 1026.

Arab states share in world researchers stood at 1.5 per cent as against 26.5 and 31.1 for the US and Europe, respectively. In the global high-tech export market worth $148,197 million (2005) the Arab world’s (OIC) share was less than one per cent ($1459 million).

As against the world’s 21.33 per cent share of high-tech exports in total manufacturing exports, the Arab world could capture only 2.45 per cent.

By building mega monuments instead of institutions of excellence, the rich Arab state is not being any different from the Mughal empire.

M. SHAHID DAYO Islamabad

Updated Oct 16, 2012 10:16pm

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