7 October 2008

The Wake Up Call

I'm in a 5-star hotel lobby reading a copy of Gulf News, the UAE's primary English newspaper, and one that caters to quite a large percentage of the population. The newspaper is made up of 36 pages; 21 of those are full page advertisements for properties or some sort of real estate projects. Out of the other 15 pages, 7 have smaller advertisements for real estate/properties, and every other page covers some sort of real estate news.

Opposite me is a table with three Arab businessmen in their thobs, and an Arab lady in a suit. One of the men is looking at what seems to be a blueprint for a project (sounds like a residential tower), and seems to be on the verge of investing a considerably large amount into it as the lady encourages him to sign the papers.

The table next to me is surrounded by English businessmen, five of them, discussing the specifics of a project with another thob wearing local. The conversation gets heated as they get excited about what is being offered; I don't quite catch what it is, but it sounds like some type of luxury resort. Smiles and laughs abound, as success shines in everyone's eyes.

CNN is showing on a large TV in a distant corner of the lobby. The headline 'Market Crash' flashes across the bottom of the screen, as the newsreader mentions another mortgage-related financial disaster on the other side of the globe. Images of laid-off employees followed by more reports of asset liquidations and expensive corporate bailouts.

Two different sides of the world, two different worlds in themselves. Scary to see how leveraged this region is, in terms of a sector related to the market crash in other regions. Scary to see how the market meltdown has started in the U.S., and slowly started to spread to the rest of the world. Scary to see overconfidence in a market so unbelievably fragile, with no effort being made to shield away from the impending disaster. And scary to see people asleep to the fact that this whole situation might blow over any day now.

Ignoring the obvious warning signs, the issues facing the global community that feel so far away, it's hard to tell we're heading for disaster, a disaster we're being naive enough to discount as an unrealistic possibility. More projects are being set up, more investments are being taken, and more risks are being thrown on the table, yet everyone sleeps to the fact that this dream isn't going to last for ever.

We might be in for that wake up call very, very soon.


Abid said...

It's funny because the economy of the UAE is practically married to the US but still people are naive and oblivious to the impending disaster.

Anonymous said...

well said ammaro.

KJ said...

we ARE heading for disaster o Allah yestor

Mrs Dynamite aka Lorena +Wonder Women... said...

yup .. is true, many ppl here are with out job, and many others with out house! can you imagine that in this nation?... but the worst is that if this nation is going down many others are going with it! :(

rosh said...

"Gulf News, the UAE's primary English newspaper"

You mean arse wipe?

That said, yup the chicken's gonna be home soon to roost!

beaverboosh said...

It is amazing how 'business as usual' it has been even in Banking until Lehmans went south! Dead man walking or what!

Anonymous said...

I don't know much about Middle East countries but I always hear about their development, real estate planning and other crazy projects.

I sometime wonder why would you develop the area that much. I mean, most of these countries are actually pretty small and a huge part of them is desert... right? How many houses in the sand can you build??

Anonymous said...

By the way, what's a thob? Is that the long dress?

Homers Secret Mistress said...

That is the beauty in it all. Deserts have now become leading cities of the world. Why hault development? Populations well over millions are living in these regions, and have the money to live in well means.

Secondly, it is a very stereotypical view to assume that "houses are built on sand".

A thoub is formal arab male attire. Usually in the shade of white. It can be worn on a daily basis, and more commonlly in formal occasions.

ammaro said...

Zhu; there's actually quite a big population here, and many people flying in from other parts of the world, fuelling the development. Sure, you can build quite a lot here, and it will be used up.

But they're not just building a lot, no no, they're building ridiculous amounts of buildings that are probably going to turn into ghost towns very soon. A few investors make a lotta money. Everything else goes down the drain.