NYT on Dubai and the world financial mess
The New York Times sees some problems for Dubai, but on the whole thinks Dubai will get through these times with just a few scratches. Some excerpts:
as recession looms in the West, cracks are appearing in the oil-fueled boom that has made Dubai, with its futuristic skyscrapers on the turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf, a global byword for unfettered growth.Read NYT: Boomtown Feels Effects of a Global Crisis.
Banks are reining in lending, casting a pall over corporate finance and building plans. Oil prices have been dropping. Stock markets across the region have been falling since June. After insisting for days that the oil-rich Persian Gulf region was fully “insulated” from financial troubles abroad, the Emirates’ Central Bank made about $13.6 billion available on Sept. 22 to ease credit problems, in an echo of bailout measures in the United States. Already, some bankers are saying it is not enough.
Some of Dubai’s more extravagant building projects — the ever-bigger malls, islands and indoor ski slopes — are likely to be dropped if they do not already have financing lined up, bankers say. The credit crisis could also reduce demand from buyers, who will have a harder time getting mortgages.
The shrinkage will be more severe if the financial crisis worsens in the West. Property prices and rents, which have remained steady until now, are widely expected to start dropping soon.
At the same time, investor confidence has been harmed by a long string of high-level corporate scandals, jeopardizing Dubai’s long-term ambition of becoming a regional financial capital.
In fairness, Dubai still looks rosy when set against the financial turmoil elsewhere. Although it lacks the oil wealth of its sister emirate Abu Dhabi, Dubai has huge budget and current account surpluses, and the government of the Emirates federation is able and willing — like its Persian Gulf neighbors — to inject an almost unlimited amount of money into the system to ease credit problems.
Many analysts say the slowdown in Dubai’s economy, assuming it does not worsen to a slump, will make the city’s growth more sustainable and healthy by reducing its dependence on loans and speculation.
Similarly, the authorities hope that recent arrests in corporate scandals will root out the culture of corruption that plagues so many Arab countries. Some of those arrested have been Emiratis with connections to the ruling family, in a gesture clearly intended to send the message that no one is exempt.
At worst, if the global economy worsened and some Dubai banks failed, there would be a firm crutch to lean on.