Lessons from the Dubai Crisis

Published on 1st December 2009

As in the case of the ocean liner RMS Titanic, warnings that the global financial meltdown was catching up with Dubai were dismissed as a bigoted slur on an Arab success story. Dubai has served as the largest international financial center between Singapore and Europe; regional headquarters for investment banking and destination for more than 6 million tourists a year. The city-state of Dubai  has however shocked the global investment community by asking creditors of its main corporate arm, ports-and-property conglomerate Dubai World, for a six-month payment standstill on its almost $60 billion of liabilities.

The Dubai crisis teaches us a number of lessons. First, we ought to ask honest questions. For example: What is success?  Zimbabwe was a “success story” when white settlers were in control. Now it is a “failed state.” Is success only 'success' when a country succumbs to the whims of foreign manipulation? Can Botswana - Africa’s current “success story” stand on its own feet if foreign investors pulled out?


Second, one cannot cheat the market - not for long – as it respects no one. It punishes individual, corporate or government failure with equal force. It punishes the Harvard school trained; the one with oil or the native in the jungle alike.


Third, we ought to develop a sustainable strategy to come out of our mess. Unlike Africa that always clamors for debt cancellation and more aid to service its debts, Dubai has asked for a six-month reprieve to repay the debts and be on its feet again.

Fourth, since economic trends are cyclic, let us learn from the Dubai mistakes and push for high productivity and sane and sound regulation. The world is ready to reward anyone who successfully transforms problems into business opportunities.

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