DAVID ROBERTSHAW: Good morning. My name's David Robertshaw, and I think I'm the only person in here wearing a necktie.
This is because this is in honor of our speaker. I thought I'd better be formally dressed, because I have to introduce him. Our speaker today is Dr. Muawia Barazangi. He received his BA degree from Damascus University in Syria, and his Master's from the University of Minnesota.
He joined the research staff at the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences here at Cornell. And he is currently a professor emeritus of that department. He joined as a research associate immediately after completing his PhD in seismology at Columbia University in 1971. During the period from November 1978 to June 1980, he was a professor and chairman of the Department of Geophysics at King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.
He was a senior scientist at Cornell when, in 1998, he was appointed a professor. He also served as the associate director of the Institute for the Study of the Continents at Cornell, from 1998 to 2010. Professor Barazangi is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the Seismological Society of America, and the Geological Society of America.
The title of his talk today is The Arab Winter-- Oil, Wealth, and Declining Science. I'm hoping that there might be an exception to the declining science that exists in that part of the world. But that's me speaking personally. Professor Barazangi.
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: Thank you. If I knew you were going to have a tie, I would have put my tie. But anyway, good morning and [ARABIC]. I thank especially Cindy and Judith for making this lecture possible. And I thank the audience for coming.
I'm sorry to inform you from the start that my presentation will be a sad one, but very realistic and frank. And I hope that I will not unnecessarily depress you this morning. This lecture will not be a traditional, typical one. And it addresses two major subjects-- Arab oil and wealth and its relation to the United States, and second, the unfortunate decline of both science and human development in the Arab world.
The lecture will include scientific information and facts, and suggested strategies and future policies. You will not find the information that I will present in a single publication. And most probably, you will not agree about part of this presentation. This is OK.
I will use a very limited number of PowerPoint slides. The lecture will last about one hour. I think it's going to be about 50 minutes. And I will be glad to answer questions at the end.
Let me say a few words about the sources that I used. Concerning the oil and wealth subject, I used many scientific journals, numerous publications, and summary reports from many agencies, like USGS, US Energy Information Administration, International Energy Agency, and many others, and from national and international oil companies; in addition, my personal contact and interaction with exploration managers for the Middle East of many international oil companies as part of my industrial-social program for many years here at Cornell. Concerning science and development in the Arab world, I used, again, numerous reports and publications from numerous sources I will not list here now-- there are too many-- but as important, my experience and knowledge working for about 30 years in the scientific research project in many of the Arab countries.
Most of the authoritative studies, especially the ones from UNDP and UNESCO, concerning science in the Arab region depends and based on statistical information from many sources, including Arab government, private foundations, and other sources. But most of it, if not all, do not give the real picture of science on the ground, mainly because they lack ground truth of direct, continuous interaction over many years with scientists, both young scientists and mature, and administrators and policy makers in those countries. And this is my strength, for dealing with such people for many years, in many Arab countries, including Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon.
You may ask why I entitled my lecture The Arab Winter. Because it is the truth. There was and there is no Arab Spring for decades, and really for centuries. It is an invention, mostly by the media. If you want, you may call it a few candles of lights, but in a sea of darkness.
Now I will focus on two main subjects concerning the Arab region, oil and science. Oil and natural gas, the main strategic natural resource in the Arab region, represents the Arab material wealth. And clearly, the West, that is, Western Europe and the USA, especially, has a lot of interest in its production, management, and its control. What about science? Ideally, wealth should be used wisely, especially in human development, in order to create new knowledge and innovation in all spheres of life. And this is where there is a major failure in the Arab region.
I start with a very brief summary of this presentation. I will give you three major conclusions at the beginning. First, the Arabian Persian Gulf region-- I will call it the Gulf to avoid argument whether Persian or Arabian-- is the site of the largest proven reserve of conventional oil in the world, and will continue to be the case most probably for the rest of this century. There is another Middle East to be discovered in the present Middle East. And I will explain why.
Second, in spite of the extreme wealth of the Arab countries in the Gulf, really extreme wealth-- and that's not including Iran. I'm mentioning the Arab countries not including Iran. For example, the income from oil and gas in 2012 last year was about $750 billion. And the surpluses of rich Arab countries, the extra money they have, is currently about $3 trillion-- t, like in tongue-- $3 trillion.
In spite of this wealth, and recognizing the many recent scientific initiatives during the recent past two to three decades, especially in rich Arab countries-- and I will explain-- there is a definite ongoing decline in science in all the Arab countries. And there is a major crisis in the Arab human development. And there is no hope for a remedy in the near future.
Third, Islam as a religion and a worldview is not the cause of this problem. Islam is based on two main sources, the Quran and the prophetic tradition. We call it hadith. I argue that the narrow interpretation of the Quran and the misuse of the hadith over many centuries have significantly contributed to the problem.
There is an urgent need to reread the Quran and to rethink the hadith in an open mind and open heart. This must be done. And my wife Nimat here is doing research work and writing another book on the subject. But there are very few scholars who are directly addressing these two issues.
Let me discuss the oil and wealth part of the presentation. To better appreciate the oil story in the Gulf, that is, the Gulf in the Middle East, it is important to first briefly discuss the global picture, with special focus on the USA. Recently, that is, June, last June, 2013, the world oil demand averaged about 89 million barrels of oil per day. You should remember this figure. We need about 90 million barrels of oil per day for the whole world.
Now, the world population, as you know, will increase from about the current seven billion, about seven billion people, to about nine billion people, the best estimate projected in 2035. This will result in a major energy demand, especially oil, coal, and gas. And the best projection is that oil demand will reach 110 million barrels per day by the year 2035. This is based on our Department of Energy projection.
What are the sources for the oil? You say, OK, where are we getting our energy, world energy? As of June 2013, a few months ago, 33% comes from oil. And the lowest on record-- oil has lost market share for 13 years in a row. That's good. But 33% still comes from oil, 30% from coal-- and the highest since 1970, more usage of coal-- and 24% natural gas.
So oil, coal, and natural gas add up to 87% of the world usage of energy. 7% comes from hydroelectric, and 4 and 1/2% from nuclear, and only 1 and 1/2%, 1.5%, from all other renewable energy. Name it-- solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel, only 1 and 1/2 percent, very small number.
I will give you some facts about the USA. Recently, the USA-- we need about 20 and 1/2 million barrels of oil per day to run this country. 10 and 1/2 million barrels is from domestic production, including Alaska and Gulf of Mexico. And 10 million barrels imported, so about 50/50. Note that the USA, we are only about 5% world population, using about 23% of world oil supply.
Also note that the US made about 25% increase in oil production in 2012, very dramatic. This is a very large increase. And this increase is mainly due to unconventional oil production using the technique so-called fracking, hydraulic fracturing. And I will explain a little more.
The question that you hear a lot lately is, will the USA become energy independent? Of course, the USA has a large supply of coal, very large. But what about oil and gas?
The unconventional tight oil-- they call it tight oil-- of the USA is located, most of it, 80% of the tight oil of the USA, in two areas, really-- one in the so-called Bakken Formation, North Dakota and eastern Montana, the Williston Basin. And the other is the Eagle Ford Formation in south Texas-- only those two regions, 80% of the tight oil in the USA. Total production from tight oil now in the USA is about two million barrels per day. But it is based on hydraulic fracturing, as I said, technology, and horizontal drilling.
In the Bakken area, the current drilling rate, they drill 1,500 wells a year, incredible. And they produce about 1 million barrels a day from Dakotas. And remember, it costs about $10 million per well to drill. So it's not cheap.
So far, they have about 5,000 oil wells in the Williston Basin for this unconventional oil. It looks like Swiss cheese. Some of you have seen some photos. They are incredible to see.
The price of oil must be, however, more than about $80 per barrel to make it profitable. Oil production from tight oil plays will continue to rise, leading to a considerable reduction in net import dependence. But for sure, we will continue to import oil at a reduced rate.
Note that crude oil production has increased since 2008, reversing decline that began in 1986. In '86, we started importing more. In 2008, we started importing less.
How about natural gas? Most of you, if not all of you, are aware that we are in the midst of a shale gas revolution. And regardless of your personal feeling about it, shale gas only accounted for 2% of USA gas production in the year 2000. And now, it's about 40%. In 2012, it was 40% coming from shale gas.
And it is distributed more in the USA, five areas. We call it five plays, five areas. 80% comes from those five areas. One of them is in our neighborhood, the Marcellus Shale region in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia. And there are other areas in Arkansas and Oklahoma and Texas.
But a very large number of wells must be drilled. For example, in Louisiana, they drill about 800 wells per year for the shale gas. Increase of natural gas will continue from tight shale formations, whether we like it or not, and is projected to outpace domestic consumption by the year 2020, and will result in possible exporting natural gas, though you can argue about the rationale and the logic of this decision.
In summary, energy independence for the USA is very likely for natural gas, is very unlikely for oil, and especially if restriction on exploration continues to be enforced. And I hope they will continue to be enforced. Again, I leave this for question and answer, in case people want to know more.
You may ask where on earth the majority of conventional oil exists on this earth. In seven countries, five in the Gulf region-- that is Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, and Iran-- four of them Arab, one Persian, but all Islamic. And the other two countries are Venezuela and Russia. That counts up, as I said, to 80% of all the proven reserves in the whole world.
Canada can be in this club if we consider the unconventional reserves. They have a huge reserve of unconventional. And now, they're producing from the sand, from the tar sand, about 2 million barrels per day in Canada. Environmentally, it's very nasty. But they are producing it.
And if the USA gives permit to the Keystone Pipeline from Canada to the USA, Canada is hoping to increase production to 6 million barrels per day from the tar sand by the year 2035. And that could be a problem for the environment, needless to say.
So those seven countries I mentioned have 80% of all the world reserves for oil. For gas, five countries have most reserves-- Russia, Iran, Qatar, USA, and Saudi Arabia. Let me repeat-- Russia, Iran, Qatar, USA, and Saudi Arabia. More than 60% of world proven conventional oil reserves exist in the Gulf region, the Arabian Persian Gulf region, more than 60%, though only they produce 25% of the world's supply. Only produce 25% world supply, but they have much more reserves.
Saudi Arabia is producing about 11 million barrels per day. It's the largest in the world. And second to Saudi Arabia, there's Russia and the United States, with about 10 and 1/2 million barrel per day production. Aramco, the Saudi national oil company, claims that their current opacity is 12 and 1/2 million barrels per day. So they are able to produce more, Saudi Arabia, if there is need.
However, these figures are not static. And it is constantly changing because improved and new technology, such as horizontal drilling, fracking, increase oil recovery. This is very important. They are really doing major increases in recovery.
Traditionally, they only extract about 35% of the oil underground. But new technology is allowing to go up to maybe 50%. And Aramco is dreaming of making it as much as 70%, which would dramatically increase the total budget.
Why so much oil in the Gulf region? Because of exceptional and optimal geologic condition. And I will stop here. Otherwise, I will put you to sleep if I start explaining the geology about why the oil is there.
Let me show you-- I cannot resist, since I came from plate tectonics-- show you a slide of plate tectonics and all the plates on Earth. But we are talking about this region, especially the Gulf region here. And this is a very simplified map, tectonic map of the Middle East area here, showing Saudi Arabia and active volcanoes here in western Saudi Arabia and Syria and Turkey. But this is the Zagros fold belt separating Arabia from Iran, the collision belt.
And the Gulf really, here, is very shallow water, the deepest about 100 meters. A lot of the Gulf region is about 20, 30 meters. And during glacial times, people must have been able to walk across here. So it's very shallow water here in the Gulf. The green is showing a very brief summary of the oil field, and the red the gas field.
Let me provide you now with some information that may help you understand one of the reasons why the United States went and invaded and occupied Iraq. And we certainly have a massive military presence in all the Gulf region, all the countries, except, of course, Iran. And you can say, why is Iran always nervous? They have American military bases all the way from the north and the east, all the Arabian region here.
The Gulf region has 30 supergiant oil fields, three zero, 30 supergiant fields like this one or like this one. We define it as having more than 5 billion barrels of proven reserves. And there is about 80 giant oil fields. So I defined supergiant giant field. And there are 80 giant oil fields that have reserves between half a billion and five billion barrels of oil.
There are only total here about 600 oil fields. For comparison, in the United States, we have more than 30,000 oil fields. Let me explain.
Example-- Rumaila, this Rumaila oil field, mostly in Iraq, the southern part of it in Kuwait. And this is one of the things that really irritated Saddam Hussein, because the Kuwaiti will drill here and go horizontally trying to tap the oil. Discovered in 1953, this supergiant oil field, this one here, Rumaila, has more proven reserves than all of the conventional proven reserves of the whole United States, including Alaska and Gulf of Mexico, the conventional type, one oil field.
This Ghawar oil field in Saudi Arabia is the largest in the world. It's about 250 kilometers in length, about 20 kilometers in width, discovered in 1948, and produces five million barrels of oil per day. Incredible.
Note that it is considerably much cheaper to drill and produce oil in the Gulf region. It costs only about $5 to $10 million to drill a well on land in this part of the world. In contrast, some of the deep water wells cost as much as $1 billion, huge difference. The end result, it costs really about $5 to produce one barrel of oil in the Gulf region, and costs more than $40 per barrel in Canada or the USA for unconventional oil.
The question for us, will the oil production soon decline in the Gulf region? Will the concept of peak oil mean the end of oil, as proposed and suggested by some recently published books? The simple answer is no.
The proven recoverable oil reserve in the Gulf region is huge and reasonably well documented. It's about 270 billion barrels in Saudi Arabia, and 150 billion barrels in Iraq and Iran, and about 100 billion barrels in Kuwait and United Arab Emirates. There will be oil from this region and current production for at least 50 years, if not 100 years.
In fact, there is a need for considerably more exploration and drilling in the Gulf region, especially in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran. Only 200 to 300 wells per year are drilled for the whole Gulf region, 200 to 300 wells, relatively nothing. Versus, remember, in the USA we drill about 30,000 wells per year. So we don't know much about this region, really.
And the Paleozoic play-- in geology, we call some age Paleozoic, the older type rocks-- they discovered in the Empty Quarter, on the margin of the Empty Quarter. And there is potential for much more. The Empty Quarter, really the size of Texas, is hardly explored for logistical reasons. And there is no need for Saudi to explore right now.
Iraq and Iran have little modern exploration for the past 30 years for obvious reasons, wars and boycotts and sanctions. The whole Mesopotamian Foredeep, really, this Mesopotamian Foredeep that continues into Iraq, most probably underlain by oil, including Baghdad, and certainly, western Iraq. This is a map showing the oil in Syria. And you see all the oil stops on the political boundary. This, of course, doesn't make sense. Geologic structure in western Iraq, for sure there will be oil.
I finish from the slide issue here. In fact, recently OPEC estimated 200 billion barrels of oil not yet discovered in the Gulf region, a future Middle East inside the Middle East. That's why I said there is a Middle East inside the Middle East to be discovered yet. Only Russia has such a possibility in West Siberia and the Arctic region. But as you know, it is very difficult logistically and politically.
Let me remind you that the whole world so far, we've used about one trillion barrels of oil-- from ground zero until now, about one trillion barrels of oil. And the best estimate and projection is that there are still about two trillion, two trillion barrels of proven and recoverable reserves, and could be more if you factor in the unconventional reserves, as I have discussed.
Of course, this does not include-- does not include-- offshore exploration possibilities like what they're doing right now, both in shallow and deep water. They are doing now a lot of exploration in West Africa offshore, like Liberia, Sierra Leone, Ghana, and Nigeria. Remember, the world is yet not going big time offshore, because of environmental concerns. And of course, the promising possibility of increased oil recovery to double the amount that can be produced from underground.
Let me reflect a few words about the subject of wealth in the Arab Gulf countries-- the Arab Gulf countries, not Iran. With a target price of about $100 per barrel of oil-- that's what it is now, a little more right now, more than $100 per barrel-- Saudi Arabia's yearly income is a little more than $360 billion per year. Incredible. That is $1 billion per day.
And Iraq and Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, about $100 billion per year. And Qatar, in 2012, their income from mostly natural gas was $190 billion, one nine zero billion dollars, Qatar. That's a little country.
Indeed, the Arab Gulf, not including Iran, recorded total oil and gas income last year, 2012, of $750 billion, seven five zero billion dollars last year income for only the Arab countries, not Iran. This is the highest income in history. It was only $300 billion in 2005, 2006, mainly because of more oil production and the high price of oil. Last year, the average oil price was $110 per barrel.
Is it wise for the Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia, to maintain and plan to increase current production of oil? The minister of war in Saudi Arabia mentioned in a speech last year that they are projecting to go as much as 15 million barrels production per day. That would be tragedy. All Arab governments say yes. I argue that the answer could be no.
Geologically, it may not be good to accelerate production. Economically, no need for that extra money now, considering their development plan. And socially and politically, they should consider future long-term generations. And they're really helping the West, especially the United States, to maintain our addiction to oil.
For example, I'll give you an example of how they are wasting money. A considerable sum of petrodollars, in the billions, are spent on wasteful, really silly projects, such as the highest building on earth in the United Arab Emirates, and destroying the Gulf ecosystem by claiming the Gulf water to create artificial islands to build houses in the United Arab Emirates. This is tragedy. As if every Bedouin must open their door and find water in front of their door, destroying the ecosystem.
And not to mention building, yes, building, a downhill skiing slope in Dubai-- yeah, skiing slope in Dubai. This is really decadence, I should say. And of course, purchasing much weapons, especially from the USA. Saudi Arabia spent last year $60 billion on buying 150 fighter jets. And I will reflect on that later. By the way, the United States, they sell 75% of all the world weapons and more.
To further understand the keen and strong interest of the West, especially the USA, not only to access the oil resources of the Gulf region, but also to access the future wells of the region, let me mention here a recent economic study by the late Professor Chapman here at Cornell. He estimated the total value of known proven reserves, the proven reserves, in the Gulf region to be about $150 trillion, one five zero trillion, with the letter T, like tongue. Assuming an average price of $100 per barrel, which it currently is, the question is, who will control this wealth?
The USA is in full harmony with all these undemocratic-- let me emphasize, undemocratic-- countries in the Gulf. Why not also Iran? You may see the anxiety of the USA about Iran.
Let me now discuss the current and future of scientific research in the Arab region. Is there hope? I will explain why my answer was no, at least for the near future. The fundamental problem, in my opinion, is first, that human development in the Arab region is primarily based on individual initiative and not on organized, well-developed system of values and societal infrastructure.
Second, the misuse and the misinterpretation of the two primary sources of Islam-- let me make very clear, I'm saying the misuse and the misinterpretation of those sources, that is, the Quran and the collection of the prophet Muhammad's sayings and tradition-- I call that Hadith-- have significantly contributed to minimize innovation on all individual and society level, and on all spheres of life, including science, and especially women's development. It is a cultural crisis that is in the making for hundreds of years. It's nothing new. The crisis is very deep and extremely serious, but is denied, ignored, and often not discussed.
Let me shed some light on the decline of science in the Arab region by stating two major misconceptions-- first, science could be transferred without major planning and building a strong infrastructure for research and providing the required human development, and second, that basic research is dispensable for financial reasons. The Arabs must understand that to leap frog the development cycle does not work. You cannot buy or import science, as they do in, say, Qatar and other countries in the Gulf region.
How can I say this with so many university graduates and considerable expenditure on scientific institutions and centers? You know, you hear the news, a lot of things happening. For example, about 140,000 Saudi students are studying abroad, large number, mostly in the USA. And this is going on for many years.
But at the same time, about one third, one third of Saudi young people are jobless. It's not working. In fact, youth unemployment in Arab countries is double the global average. In Egypt, 25% of university graduates are unemployed.
Let me mention an example, which is-- I call them the candles of light. Three multibillion-dollar regional initiatives in the Arab rich countries exemplify a recent top-down approach to higher education, though they will brain drain other poor Arab countries. The first one, the Qatar Education City, established 2001, involving six large US universities, including Cornell. And second, the Masdar Institute in Abu Dhabi, established in 2006, involving big-time MIT. And the third, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, established 2009. It's really an international university implemented by Aramco and other USA scholars.
These are some of the candles of light. But their impact on human development in the Arab region is really minimal and marginal, especially considering the magnitude of resources they have used. It's definitely OK to build such institutions, better than purchasing stupid weapons. But they are not the answer to the human development problem. And if there is a question and answer later, I certainly have a lot of concern about Cornell partnership with Qatar. And I'll be glad to elaborate, if people would like to hear a different opinion.
Let me provide you with some more facts about the Arab region. Currently, there is about 360 million people in the Arab world, three six zero, a little more than the USA. Their projection is to be 400 in 2020, and the best estimate, 600 million Arabs in 2050. This is really the coming catastrophe. Remember, in 1980, there was only 150 million Arabs, only.
Why this situation? Because 60% of Arabs are under the age of 25, and more than 30% under the age of 15. There are 65 million Arabs illiterate, and 2/3 of them are women.
Let me give you another fact, which is striking. Arab countries collectively, all of them, the poor and the rich, the 22 Arab countries, spend 0.15% of their collective GDP, gross domestic product, on science, scientific research, and development. That is, the Arab states spend about $10 per person per year.
Of course, on scientific research in the United States or Europe, they average $600 to $700 per person per year. And the global average for spending on research and development is 1.5% of GDP, 1.5%. The Arabs are spending 0.15%, 10 times this.
Of special interest here, I should say the super-rich countries of the Gulf-- Saudi Arabia spent only 0.05% of their GDP. It's really a shame, relative to their GDP, of course. And Kuwait 0.09%, and Qatar 0.33%, though they claim they're going to increase it. In contrast, to make you feel what-- Israel spent 4.4% of their GDP on science, one of the highest in the world. And for reference, again, the USA, we spend about 2.7% and South Korea 2.4%.
Only seven Arab countries out of the 22 have a national academy of sciences. And most have no national science policy. Let me give you an interesting example.
The recent Muslim Brotherhood administration, the one-- they are in jail right now-- in Egypt declared an Islamist science policy last year that has three goals. The first goal-- support national defense and security. That's OK. Second-- ensuring quality of life. That's OK. Third-- proving the miraculous nature of the Islamic faith. This is indeed a surprising goal. And Quran should not be viewed as a scientific work.
Let me give you another fact. The military expend-- that's where Arabs excel. The military expenditure of the Arab countries as a percentage of GDP is the highest ratio in the world. The Arabs are really good customers of the USA.
Saudi Arabia spent 10% of their GDP on military, Kuwait 7%, Oman 12%. In fact, if you combine everything the Arabs spend on science and development and technology, and everything they spend on education, all levels of education, university, k-12, and everything-- and most of it, by the way, government education system-- and everything they spend on health, all aspects of health, the three together, they spend more money on military per year.
As I said, last year, the Saudi purchased $60 billion of fighter jets from USA. And three years before that, they purchased $20 billion from the United Kingdom. And that's when the big fiasco-- probably you heard about this. Prince Bandar, who is now the head of security of Saudi Arabia, made a cut for himself, $2 billion.
And the British government, after they admitted it, you don't hear much about it. He made $2 billion himself, personally, for that deal with the United Kingdom. This, of course, has a lot of implications about the industrial-military complex here in the United States.
Another aspect of the Arab world, oil consumption in Arab countries, 2012, only seven million barrels per day, very low. This is really a sign of lack of industrialization and development. Saudi Arabia energy consumption, they use 28% of all the total Arab consumption, because of the waste, the way they use energy. There are only 25, 30 million people in Saudi Arabia, but they use 28% of all the 360 million people of Arabs. Air pollution in Arab countries, except the megacities, is among the lowest in the world-- again, not much industrialization. Basically, they are import consumer societies.
Qatar, by the way-- I just want to say, since our colleague here was teaching in Qatar-- leads the world in per person CO2 emission. It's a very wasteful mini country. It's the highest-- it is outlier. Nothing comes close to Qatar in terms of wasting energy.
Another example, all Arab countries only produced, authored and translated, in 2010 6,000 books in science and technology. In the United States, we produced more than 100,000 books for that year. In general, book production in Arab countries is 1% of world production, though the Arabs constitute 5% of world population. And most published books are centered on religious subjects. If you take that out, the story is even more sad.
Lack of innovation is evident by the very limited published scientific papers and evident by the number of patents that were registered, for example, between 1980 and 2000, 20 years-- a total of 500 Arab patents only compared to 8,000 for Israel for the same period of time. Also in 2008, only 71 patents were registered by Arabs. And some are by expatriates working, non-Arabs working in Arab universities. Concerning published scientific papers, the number is extremely low, as low as two papers per 100 researchers. It's trivial.
Another challenge for the Arab countries I should mention here, the brain drain. One third of the total brain drain from developing countries to the West are Arabs, one third. Arab countries lose one half of their newly qualified medical doctors, incredible. And one quarter of their engineers and 20% of their scientists, I guess including myself, [INAUDIBLE] to the West. And 3/4 of those Arabs who leave, really, 3/4 of them come to USA, England, and Canada.
Why brain drain? Because of low salaries, lack of opportunity for scientific research, limited new technology, lack of freedom, and prevailing political and social instability. The majority, if not all of Arab universities are at best centers for knowledge dissemination, and not for new knowledge production and innovation.
There were only about 250 public and private universities in the Arab region in 2010-- total, the whole Arab countries-- and about 300 scientific research centers and organizations, mostly outside universities and mostly governmental centers. And mostly they specialize in agriculture and some in water resources. All of the above suffer from lack of innovative leadership, as well as much needed environment to allow for development of leadership.
Let me give you an example of how two Saudi universities have recently misused and abused science, integrity, and trust. I'm not trying to pick on Saudi Arabia, but it's a good example to mention. King Saud University in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and King Abdulaziz University in Jeddah-- I used to teach there for one year and a half a long time ago-- are wrong, are wrong by appointing USA and European, Canadian well-known and accomplished scientists-- these are Nobel Laureate types-- as adjunct professors and granting them a lot of cash, between $50,000 to $100,000 per year per scientist, to gain visibility in research journals by adding the Saudi University addresses on their published paper. They will say Harvard address and then and King Saud University, in order to get credit on ISI highly cited lists.
This is sponsored and supported by Saudi Ministry of Higher Education, though they deny it. But I know from personal colleagues in Saudi Arabia it did happen. Of course, it is also very wrong for the USA, Canadian, and European scientists from Harvard, Cambridge, University of Toronto, and so on, to agree to be partners for such a deal. I call it a Mickey Mouse deal. Again, this is an example of buying and importing science rather than producing it.
For your information, the 2011 Shanghai ranking of top 500 world universities included only three Arab universities. In Israel, I think they have seven or eight universities in the top 500. But all the Arab countries have three-- King Saud University, King Fahd, and Cairo University. I can understand Cairo University. But King Saud University, it looks as if the adjunct appointment scenario works well for them. They used to be ranked 2,900, and they jumped after that to the upper 500.
The recent Arab Human Development Report emphasized three major deficits in the Arab world-- freedom, women's rights, and knowledge. The question is why the Arabs evolved from the House of Wisdom-- this is the name of the institution in Baghdad in the ninth and tenth century-- from the House of Wisdom to the present house of darkness. Remember, the House of Wisdom used to have 400,000 books in the ninth and tenth century, actually. The institution of the House of Wisdom and the Al-Azhar University in Cairo were the first global residential universities, before the establishment of Bologna in Italy and Oxford and Cambridge in England.
During the golden age of Arab Muslim sciences, between 900, say, and 1200, it was achieved in a tolerant, intellectual, though religious atmosphere, but quite independent of religious authorities. Let me state here again that Islam is not the problem in achieving higher science in the Arab region. However, the evolving practice of Islam failed to offer a way to institutionalize free inquiry, even though the concept of a university started in the Arab Islamic world. And again, the misuse of the prophetic tradition, the hadith, has significantly contributed to the sad, descending status of Muslim women.
Finally, let me again say a few words concerning the wealth in the Arab region. The surpluses of rich Arab countries, surpluses, is currently estimated at about $3 trillion, T like in tongue, $3 trillion. Most of it is sitting on wealth fund or foreign currency reserves, a lot of it in the USA. Only about $30 billion, only $30 billion are used collectively by the Arab Gulf countries outside these rich countries, mostly in other Arab countries and Muslim countries, but mostly in giant property development, and especially tourist destinations such as the one on the Red Sea and the eastern Mediterranean, and very, very few dollars, that is, only in the millions of dollars, on human development projects and infrastructure such as universities, know-how transfer, and professional training and education.
You may ask, how about the rich Arab individuals? If those are the countries, what about the rich Arab individuals? Here are some facts. There are about 4,000 identified people in the Arab Gulf region with wealth more than $30 million per individual. The total wealth of these individuals is about $730 billion.
For example, in Saudi Arabia, there are 1,265 individuals with total wealth of $230 billion. Of course, that includes many from the royal family. In Kuwait, there are 735 individuals with $125 billion. Indeed, this is a huge wealth, both for the countries and individuals.
But where is the Bill Gates of the Arabs? There is no Bill Gates in the Arab land. Yes, they do give gifts and grants here and there. But it is always in the millions of dollars, the millions of dollars, and many of it to built mosques and more mosques, and often with their names on it, on the mosque. We honestly have enough mosques in the Arab world. But the Arabs need massive investment in the development of the Arab mind.
And finally, let me summarize by saying that the much needed Arab cultural and scientific renaissance requires a new governing state system, new strategy, new policy, a new education environment, in order to liberate the human capabilities and potential. And since this is not possible in the near future, hence my answer to my question was no.
It is of interest to note here that the well-known Arab-American scientist-- Egyptian by origin-- Dr. Ahmed Zewail at Caltech, a Nobel Laureate and US science envoy by President Obama, recently wrote two papers in 2011 in which he emphasized that the core problem, in his opinion, is the backward education system, and that politics and religion must not interfere in education. This is correct, though I think that the problem is considerably more complicated and requires the restructuring of the Arab mind. Thank you.
DAVID ROBERTSHAW: Thank you very much. Very provocative. We have no more than 10 minutes for questions, as we need to be out of here at 11:40. So it's open. There we go. Tony.
SPEAKER 1: I want to address the matter of the production of books predominantly in the Arab world. That is, the demand for books follows on the level of literacy in the general population. So what is the level of literacy in the Arab world? And is it static, or is it declining?
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: I happen to know a very close friend in Damascus who is the head of a major publishing house, different subjects, though they publish a lot on religious subjects. He said two years ago that they used to publish automatically any book in the Arab region, 1,500 copies automatically. Now they're lucky if they print 700 copies, and even on religious subjects. Yes, there is a problem, not only in the Arab land, but also, as you know, here in the USA and other countries, lack of reading.
But my emphasis was on science and technology. The number is extremely low. And most of those published were really translations. And hence, there is no innovative things happening.
SPEAKER 2: What about the internet? Does that have any effect on people?
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: What was it?
SPEAKER 2: The internet.
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: Yeah, I'm pretty sure it's a global phenomenon, of course. And it's affecting the way they read and they transmit information. But what I'm addressing really goes beyond that, is that there's a fundamental problem in the structure, as Dr. Zewail also said about education. Even the children in the Middle East are reared in an authoritarian fashion. And there's a need to expand the horizon on many, many fronts. It's not happening yet.
DAVID ROBERTSHAW: We have one over there.
SPEAKER 3: How much do you think that the influence of the Western superpowers trying to control many things in that area have-- how much do you think that contributes to decline of any possibility of success in those countries? Do you think that that's only [INAUDIBLE], and it only depends on them? Or do you think that the West have had a really bad influence?
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: Well, as I mentioned, it is a very tragedy the amount of weapons sold by the United States globally. But especially, as I said, the Arabs are extremely good customers. And they're spending billions of dollars on that, so that's really negative.
In addition, the West in general-- not only the United States, but England also, big time-- they built for them all these silly projects. I mean, the highest building on earth, doing many things that are inappropriate, though at the same time, many important scientific initiatives, as I said, like in Qatar, like in Saudi Arabia, King Abdullah University, of course. But these are, as I said, candles of light in a sea of darkness.
And I cannot blame only the West. The major problem is with the Arabs. And they have to change fundamental course. And regardless of what you say about the Arab Spring right now, it will not solve the fundamental problem.
You have to go back to the way the society is structured and influenced. And you cannot eliminate Islamic teaching. So we have to be integral part of the development of the Arab region. But it should be done differently, and try to address these issues which are not right.
SPEAKER 4: What's the percentage of the people that are employed by the energy structure, like oil, gas? And what's the strength of the rest of the economy? It seems like, when you see the TV and you see that part of the country, they don't seem to be employed or busy.
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: I mean, in rich Arab countries, there is a lot of employment in the oil sector. In fact, a large number of the students studying in the United States eventually end up with oil-related activity, whether chemical or geological or other aspects. Aramco sent thousands of students for training, for example. And they do have other projects within their countries, development projects.
But there is a fundamental problem. Saudi Arabia, for example, cannot function one day without the expatriates in Saudi Arabia. This is true for the United Arab Emirates, true for Qatar, true for Kuwait, and the rest of them. You say, what happened to all those hundreds and thousands of PhDs and engineering degrees we are producing? Well, they exist. But they are not being used properly and wisely.
SPEAKER 5: There's a popular saying in Arabic that predates oil. [ARABIC]. Seek knowledge, even if you have to go to China. So what? Is the oil a corrupting influence? How can you explain?
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: Well, as I said, there are large numbers of people with university degrees. And as I mentioned, one third of them in Saudi Arabia and one quarter in Egypt are unemployed. The infrastructure system, whether the political or social, is not functioning properly.
It's not a simple matter of bringing democracy. The West have to understand that the same way the Arab cannot import science, the West should understand it cannot export democracy, also, the way we understand it. That's not happening. And the easy solution for the West is we want them to be in our image. And the policy makers in those rich Arab countries, they want to imitate their masters.
SPEAKER 5: You've really pointed out that in the 10th century, there was a great era of great wisdom in the Arab population, and pointed out that this was still while Islam was a very great influence. What caused the change in the subsequent period for the decline of all of that kind of intellectual activity among the Arabs?
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: This is really the heart of the matter. And your question is right there. In my opinion-- but that's minority opinion-- it's that, as I said, the misinterpretation of the primary sources of Islam, the Quran and the hadith, have a lot to do with it.
During the Middle Ages, they gradually started to codify. And now you hear every day about the word sharia, sharia. But this is not true. If you talk to Nimat here, sharia is made by humans. It's not doctrine, Islamic doctrine.
And the way they codify it and they solidify it and they force people to obey certain paths is a major problem that addresses your concern. That's why there is a major need to rethink and reinterpret the sources. And that's not easy. You can be hanged for doing this.
DAVID ROBERTSHAW: I think I have to make that the last question. As I say, we're bound by time, not to go over it.
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: She said two questions. I don't know.
DAVID ROBERTSHAW: Two more? OK then. I saw a hand here, I think.
SPEAKER 7: Are you going to make your talk available in text format?
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: No.
SPEAKER 7: Is it being recorded?
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: Yes, it's being recorded. I don't know what they do with it. I assume they would put it on CornellCast. I don't know. But yeah, it's being recorded. I hope they will put it somewhere.
DAVID ROBERTSHAW: All right. We'll take one there.
SPEAKER 8: I really think your lecture was wonderful. And I hope that it's available to other people, as well. I think we all are very concerned about what's happening now in the Middle East. I'm stunned by the amount of weapons that-- was it Saudi Arabia is buying? So when the US criticizes, let's say, Syria or Iran, there is a dynamic there that I see, like when you said Saddam Hussein was upset about Kuwait getting the oil from underneath.
So it seems to me there's almost like something's happening here. Saudi Arabia's amassing all these weapons from the US, buying it from the US. And then we're criticizing these other countries for creating more militarism in their country. I know that's a different topic. And I'm hoping maybe you can speak on that, because--
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: Yeah, there is an element of hypocrisy. Clinton gave a speech in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, a year and a half ago or so, in which she mentioned about discussing Syria and Iran and lack of democracy there. In Riyadh she was talking. She should feel ashamed of herself to speak about democracy in Riyadh.
DAVID ROBERTSHAW: I'm afraid we're going to have to close.
MUAWIA BARAZANGI: Thank you.
We've received your request
You will be notified by email when the transcript and captions are available. The process may take up to 5 business days. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions about this request.
There is no Arab Spring, nor has there been for decades, argued Professor Emeritus Muawia Barazangi in a Sept. 12, 2013 lecture presented by the Cornell Association of Professors Emeriti (CAPE).
Barazangi discussed what he believes is the ongoing decline of science, technology and human development in the Arab region despite tremendous wealth from oil and gas reserves.