Friday, March 13, 2009

Reports of Dubai's death greatly exaggerated

It was Mark Twain famously said, "reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated" after a reporter was sent to investigate whether he had died. That makes two references to Twain in one day at the Emirates Economist.

The Financial Times says the same applies to Dubai. Reports of its death have been exaggerated:
Its fundamentals as a regional hub of shipping, services, people, trade and capital have not changed.
...
It is a simple model, reflected in the statement of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed al-Maktoum, the late ruler of Dubai: “What’s good for the merchants is good for Dubai.” Creating a hub for merchants has been an al-Maktoum family tradition for more than a century. And it is those merchants and migrants, dreamers and entrepreneurs, who built Dubai, who deserve equal credit for its rise and who will help it grow again.

This openness to foreign talent will support Dubai as it faces today’s crisis.
...
To understand why Dubai will survive, it is important to understand its commercial geography. It is not solely an Arab state – demographically or commercially. It is a commercial and tourist hub for a region that encompasses the growing markets of south Asia, emerging Africa, oil-rich Russia and the Gulf states, Iran, central Asia and the Caucasus, Europe and China. And it works largely because of the heavy infrastructure investment made by Dubai’s rulers and the expatriate traders, service professionals, construction workers, bankers and techies who make up 90 per cent of the population.
...
Infrastructure spending is old hat in Dubai. When Sheikh Rashid built the Jebel Ali port in 1979, to much criticism, he made a big bet – and won. Today, Jebel Ali helps place Dubai among the 10 largest container terminal port cities in the world. When Sheikh Rashid chose to take on a big loan in the late 1950s to dredge the Dubai creek to allow for larger ships, he was panned. It worked. The ships came, and so did the merchants. The pre-oil emirate grew and flourished.

The same can be said of its airports, airlines, telecommunications and broadband networks, metro system and expanded highways. There is no city within striking distance of challenging Dubai as a hub in a region that extends beyond the Arab world to 1.5bn people.
...
Dubai’s property bubble popped. Its hubris also (thankfully) popped. Its core business model, however, did not.
The infrastructure is still there. The Dubai ethos is still there.

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