Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is right – Dubai is NOT a bad idea

January 15, 2010

Burj Khalifa opening ceremony Picture: Christopher Swerin

For the Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, there is no room for the slightest doubt: Dubai is an outstanding success story that will not be plagued by problems no matter how ominous they may loom.
“Dubai’s success in introducing a unique developmental model has gained remarkable international recognition. As you know, success implies a certain burden that cannot be avoided,” Shaikh Mohammed wrote in answer to journalists’ questions.”The international focus on Dubai is absolutely normal. During crises, people turn their attention to those that have a successful track record. The current crisis has brought Dubai’s developmental model with all its successes into a tough test. It is truly sad to find international publications that have usually boasted about factual and precise reporting issuing articles based on rumours and baseless speculation…When a city or country decides to integrate itself as an effective international player, it should not expect an easy journey full of roses and good wishes,” Shaikh Mohammad said in reaction to a swathe of criticism from international media.
As usual, his reply was honest and dignified, as befits his character and his status.
Other people were much blunter in their reactions.
“The aggressive attack by the Western press is political blackmail against Dubai,” screamed Anwar Abdul Rahman, the veteran editor-in-chief of Akhbar Al Khaleej, Bahrain’s oldest newspaper in circulation.
For Anwar, claims such as the ones made in an editorial in The Times about the financial crisis in Dubai being more about its credibility and that trust of international investors in Dubai could never be restored, are in fact vicious attacks from the Western media. Such onslaughts had to be resisted by “adopting a clear and united strategy by editors of English language newspapers in the Gulf in order to defend Dubai against such slander,” he said. The media should use a language that would convey a clear picture to English readers in Gulf countries and other parts of the region.
“It must provide a clear image against such slander and lies practiced by the Western media that distort the truth. Writers in the local English language Press in the Gulf must be committed to objective criticism. I personally believe that is an inadequacy in the Gulf media, which should have a united position on the various issues facing our countries.”The publisher said that he was “surprised by this vicious attack being carried out by the Western media on Dubai’s debts.”
“The editorial in The Times was cheap and racist political blackmail to force Dubai’s government to pay back loans to British establishments and banks. These debts are not the worst that could happen, considering the possibilities, and don’t even represent five per cent of debts of the least affected countries such as Luxembourg. Why is there such commotion against Dubai?”Similar support to Dubai was voiced by people taking part in a discussion in Qatar last month.
Asked to argue whether Dubai was losing its status and that in fact it was “a bad idea”, the Doha Debates audience voted that did not believe that the famous city was going down and that other cities were replacing it.
Their verdict was a clear message of support for Dubai’s “experiment”, with 62% voting against the idea.
In the session, Mishal Kanoo, Chairman of the Kanoo Group, one of the largest independent groups of companies in the Gulf, attacked the motion saying Dubai was where every Arab wanted to be, reported.The city had become a beacon of prosperity for international companies and “a viable alternative to nationalism and extremism.”Rebutting suggestions that Dubai’s rulers should have been more circumspect in the way they ran the economy during the boom years, he asked: “When you are in a speeding train, do you stop and ask whether everything is OK?”Nasser Al Ghaith, an Emirati financial analyst also speaking against the motion, said he believed Dubai had taken “a wrong turn” after its construction boom but “a self-correcting mechanism” was already in operation.”To say Dubai is a bad idea is to say the free market and globalisation are bad,” Al Ghaith said at the debates. At the other side of the spectrum, Simon Jenkins, former editor of the London Times, said that Dubai was doomed because uncontrolled capitalism ends in tears and causes huge human hardship.”It was a property boom based on oil money and debt.  The hysteria of the past five years will seem like a nightmare. The idea for growth went far too fast and when you go too fast you fall much faster,” he said. Many Westerners have the same view and openly flirt with the idea of pushing Doha, the capital of Qatar, as the next capital of the Arabian Gulf. To them, it is a matter of time before the once sleepy capital becomes the financial hub of the region, overtaking powerhouses Dubai and Manama. “This place can become the preeminent financial centre for the region,” Stuart Pearce, a financier who was once head of HSBC investment management, told the media. Qatar has already set in motion a “nation-building” programme that would make it the best in the region. It includes building new cities, better infrastructure, larger ports and airports, more research and science parks and attracting large banks.
Qatar Investment Authority has already invested billions of dollars and the Qataris plan to increase and diversify their investments.
Once a poor desert country, Qatar today is one of the richest in the world and hopes to use its wealth to beat all the others in its strive to become the Gulf’s capital and financial hub. Western financiers say that it can be done. Qataris simply need to ensure that their economy is not bolted on oil, property, tourism and shopping.
But can cash alone empower Doha to take over the financial status from Dubai and Manama?
Qataris are watching and learning from others’ mistakes. From the way they dealt with financial regulators and companies, wealth management operations, international companies and tourism projects. They believe that they will succeed thanks to the right combination of their wealth with foreign expertise within a safe and stable environment.



About the author

Born August 3, 1960 in Monastir, Tunisia
Media career:
  • ABC News (Tunisia)
  • Bahrain Tribune
  • Gulf News
  • Bahrain Television News
Teaching career:
  • Monastir (Tunisia)
  • University of Bahrain
  • MA  Mass Communications, University of Leicester
  • BA  in English & US literature and studies, University of Tunis

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