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Dubai’s fundamental problem 30, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Dubai is in a mess. One of the many reasons that it finds itself in such a predicament is because of a rather profound lack of transparency. Markets hate not knowing. It inevitably leads them to a pessimistic spiral. Statements that people should “shut up” speculating and worrying about the state of Dubai’s economy and that things are going “along nicely” are not worth the paper they are written on if they are not backed up by a transparent paper trail. Indeed, these ridiculous statements were ignored by the international markets much to Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum’s annoyance.

There is a truly fundamental problem here. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum is used to people doing what they are told: he is the ruler, they are the ruled. Yet, in situations like this, he is not dealing with a few sycophantic Emirati bankers, fearful of a loss of patronage, but savvy international bankers, journalists and the like. They will need more than his ‘mighty word’ that things are alright. Indeed, their mistrust has been proven 100% correct: his word clearly means nothing, having being proven to be 100% incorrect and wrong.

This is the kind of thing that happens when someone is so rarely told ‘no’. At this point I am reminded of two leaders. The first is King Canute, who is said to have believed that he could stop the tide coming is as he was some kind of divine King: alas he couldn’t. The second is Gaddafi and his ridiculous speech at the UN a few months ago, a clear a demonstration as there has ever been of an idiot that no one has dared to say no to in 40 years.

The reaction to ban the Sunday Times in Dubai for an unflattering cartoon is typical and not a little pathetic.

And, just for good measures, here’s a (far better) cartoon from The Times’s excellent Peter Brookes.

It has been interesting to note the overbearing tone of near-gleeful Schadenfreude in the British and American press at Dubai’s embarrassing and ignominious default. The tone varies from superior to rude.

…the sea will wash away those hideous palm-shaped islands where our cheaper celebs spend spring weekends, the expat apartment blocks will crumble into dust, the scorpions will return and Dubai will be what it was in the 1960s, a frowsy fishing port in a scorched and very backward Third World country, with a moral code for the indigenous population drawn from AD 1335.


TED on Asia’s growth 30, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in China.
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TED have some fascinating talks if you haven’t come across them already and Hans Rosling gives the best TED talks. Here he discusses when Asia in the form of India and China will become as rich (per capita) as the West. Well worth 20 minutes of your time.

Abu Dhabi bails out Dubai…again 25, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in The Emirates.
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Two Abu Dhabi banks have lent some $5 billion to Dubai which is by all accounts still struggling massively since its credit-crunch collapse. For this ‘investment’ Abu Dhabi have demands both large and small. For example, Abu Dhabi sought and gained a huge stake in Dubai’s flagship airline Emirates and also changed a bill-board in a prominent place in Dubai from a picture of Dubai’s ruler to a pointedly different message proclaiming ‘Long live our Emirates Union’ with a picture of UAE President Shiekh Khalifah bin Zayed Al Nayhan, just to rub it in.


US Navy leads the way with new Zumwalt Class 25, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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Aside from having a rather nifty name, it appears as if the US Navy’s newest generation of boats ships will be rather uesful. Indeed, at a cost of some $3.3 billion each along with $4 billion in lifetime running costs for of each Zumwalt Class Destroyer, this is probably just as well. For a more detailed (i.e. a remotely useful article…) looking at the new Zumwalt class ships, go to the ever-useful and interesting ISN website.

Picture: Defense Industry Daily

Least politically correct advert…ever 23, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Many thanks to Comment Central for coming up with this little gem: an oil company bragging about exactly how much ice they could melt in a day, were they to somehow put their evil minds to it. What a scale to use for comparison.



This giant glacier has remained unmelted for centuries. Yet, the petroleum energy Humble supplies-if converted to heat-could melt it at the rate of 80 tons each second!


Subway and international rail on the way for Qatar 23, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia.
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A $25 billion deal has been announced between the Qatari Government and German rail company Deutsche Bahn to build Doha a subway system and subsequently to construct a high-speed train link to Manama, Bahrain.

The subway is expected to have four lines, 98 stations and over 300km of track. The high-speed train to Bahrain is predicted to top 350km per hour which, if my maths is vaguely correct and my playing around with distance calculations on Google Maps is up to scratch, should mean Doha-Manama in (very) roughly 45 minutes.

Subways are clearly the latest ‘must have’ accessory for any Gulf city this season. Dubai’s metro garnered copious pages of copy when it opened recently and Doha does not want to be left behind in the ‘appendages of modern city’ stakes. Also Doha, again like many if not most of the larger Gulf cities, is groaning under the weight of the traffic and a tube/subway/metro/underground railway system will be a welcome relief to residents. However, so far, I haven’t come across any projected completion dates for either of these ventures. One supposes that the subway would have to be in place for (inshallah) ‘when’ Qatar hosts the Football World Cup in 2022. Indeed, having the Bahrain-Qatar link would be a welcome addition for the event too, though it sounds like they’ll be concentrating on one huge transport infrastructure project at a time.

It will be interesting to see exactly how this will develop. Gulf cities are notorious for not having a particularity good sense of long-term planning. Buildings are built without the proper planning making the ‘after the fact’ input of electricity lines, sewerage and telephone lines (to give just three examples) often exceedingly complex. This is certainly the case in Kuwait and Dubai where property development has raced ahead of planning. I fear that Doha is following suit too. I heard that there would have been a spectacular debacle if Qatar had won the Olympics that it was in the running for whereby they would have had to have bulldozed one of their newest and poshest malls (Villagio) as that land was on the original Olympics schematics. So watch this space…


How, the more observant of you may be wondering, will the train get to Manama, given that Bahrain is made up of islands? Plans are well afoot to build a 40km bridge/causeway linking Qatar and Bahrain. Indeed, ground is expected to be broken in the coming months and work finished by 2015.

In the wider GCC scheme of these things, these developments will enable the fabled pan-GCC train linking Kuwait to Oman via Qatar, the Emirates, Saudi and Bahrain. Whether this particular mammoth rail project comes off, however, is debatable. The population of the GCC may not warrant such an extensive rail system and given the astronomical costs involved and the slow but sure realization that the region’s oil and gas resources will run out some day, the airlines need not fear just yet.

(Thanks to x for the metro map)

The rise and fall of empires 23, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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Hat tip: Comment Central and somewhere else that I can’t quite remember right now

Qatari stars league 22, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Qatar.
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To those of you with a bit of football knowledge here’s a far from complete list of some of the stars that have graced the faux-green pitches of Qatar.

Josep Guardiola, Gabriel Batistuta, Mario Basler, Frank de Boer, Ronald de Boer, Fernando Hierro, Stefan Effenberg, Romario, Frank Leboeuf, , Marcel Desailly, Christophe Dugarry, Claudio Caniggia, Tony Popović, Taribo West, Emile Mpenza, Sonny Anderson, Titi Camara, Eric Djemba Djemba, Hakan Yakin, Juninho Pernambucano.

In a brief (and probably highly inaccurate) calculation it seems to me that there are four World Cup winners there and 8-9 Champions League winners not to mention some of the greatest players ever to grace the game (Batistuta, de Boer, Romario). Quite the little selection that Qatar have assembled over the years.

A Palin-Beck ticket? 21, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in American ME Relations.
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It gives me no pleasure to recount this potential news, heralding as it would if it ever came to fruition the end of civilization as we know it. Yet Sarah Palin, the great thinker of the Republican Party, has countenanced the notion of running on a ticket with Glenn Beck, the Fox news…erm…personality.

I realize that this is, in many ways, a non-news story. The odds of this ticket taking off are exceedingly small and the odds of its success are practically infinitesimal. Just take it, therefore, as a cautionary tale: yes, things might be bad now, but be careful what you wish for…

Hat hip: The Mahdi from Voldemort


Rabbi on charges for drug dealing 20, November 2009

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Random.
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The Times of London reports on a rabbi who allegedly moonlighted as a drug dealer supplying cocaine in the Manchester area. Rabbi Baruch Chalomish denies supplying the drug but only using it for personal recreational purposes. Unfortunately (for him at least) various drug cutting paraphernalia was found at his house including a cutting agent, ‘snap bags’, and precise digital scale. Furthermore, the cocaine found at his house was of a far higher quality than that found on the street. Chalomish is accused of swapping cocaine for sexual favors from young prostitutes.