Dubai

"History is nothing but a procession of false Absolutes,
a series of temples raised to pretexts,
a degradation of the mind before the Improbable."

E.M Cioran, A Short History of Decay (1949)

 

“For some it has been nothing more than a bubble-prone mix of Las Vegas and Disneyland. For others it represented a future model of strategic economic development characterized by open trade, low taxes, public-private infrastructure financings, and entertainment-driven mass tourism. For most, undoubtedly, it remains an experiment hard to ignore.“ (New Vision for Dubai, Economic Focus, The Quarterly Magazine of the Arab British Chamber of Commerce, Spring 2009)

“Few cities have so consistently caught the headlines of the global media like Dubai. During the past ten years it has been the story of an unstoppable accent setting new superlatives in construction and tourism. Since early 2009 it is the story of a failed and decadent world that Dubai has come to symbolize.“ ('New Vision for Dubai')

“Vision, focus and uncompromising discipline have characterized the success model of modern Dubai. Focus and discipline became more and more diluted by international debt and credit markets that became too eager to finance anything Dubai had to offer on the assumption that Abu Dhabi will be Dubai's white knight in case of default. Indeed, this is a prime example of market failure. Dubai, in the first place, should have never had access to this magnitude of funding priced at Abu Dhabi risk. But above all, we must recognize that Dubai - on its ascent as well as in its most recent struggle with reality - is a story of Western practices taken to extreme levels.“ ('New Vision for Dubai')

“My book 'Generation Dubai: Exit, Voice and Loyalty' was inspired by Dubai's founding spirit 'Daring the Improbable'. The book uses Dubai as a mirror picture to put into perspective a changing world where the West's role is not only diminished, but where the West has betrayed some of the values that have made it strong in the first place. Whether Dubai will fall victim to the asset bubble that appears to implode infront of our eyes is irrelevant for the purposes of my book.“ ('New Vision for Dubai')

“But in one aspect both critics and admirers of Dubai should be united: the spirit of 'Daring the Improbable' is not only the foundation of Dubai's undeniable success, but it is a spirit that has been lost in the West. The current global crisis - with its origins in a reckless drive for profits in the absence of substance and appropriate regulatory oversight - may record the retrenchment of the private sector as its biggest casualty. No city other than Dubai, and no countries other than Great Britain and the United States, have championed so consistently and strongly the interests of the private sector in the name of job creation and economic growth.“ ('New Vision for Dubai')

“The world may be flat thanks to technological developments. But the importance of location, nonetheless, is on the rise. And an individual’s socio-economic advancement is more and more dependent on the ability to join the Club of the mobile embracing change and diversity across cultures and borders. For now, Dubai is the archetypical Club of the mobile, but not without a price.“ (Generation Dubai; Exit, Voice and Loyalty; pp. 6-7)

“Dubai’s spirit is based on a hatred for limits. It is this hatred that has allowed Dubai to achieve the unthinkable… But it is this hatred for limits – in particular in the absence of both humility and prudence – that could well be the unmaking of Dubai, too. This spirit of limitlessness is now largely held responsible for the demise of the Western financial system. The portrait of a card house falling apart is hard to dismiss. But the very timing of the global credit crisis – as much as it represents a risk to Dubai’s growth and overall sustainability – embeds also a unique opportunity to partly demonstrate the resilience of Dubai’s system and to implement changes to avert the worst possible crisis.” (p. 75)

“It is the rather late discovery of – limited – oil reserves that forced Dubai to think and execute the Improbable: build a world-class port infrastructure, despite its coastline’s shallow waters, to emerge as the world’s leading trading hub. It has been the nature of war and tension debilitating its region that has reinforced Dubai’s status as an oasis of opportunity and prosperity. Indeed, Dubai has been the inspirational force behind the rise of modern Qatar and Abu Dhabi – the new forces of global capitalism recycling massive oil and gas windfalls into significant stakes in the West’s most prestigious industrial, banking and real estate assets. Whatever the future of Dubai, the one thing we cannot ever take from it is the trendsetting inspirational force it has represented to a new generation of economic strategic development adopted by an increasing number of countries and cities – beyond the Gulf.” (p.7)

 “… will it exercise humility to avoid the fate of the Tower of Babel? These questions are not only of relevance to Dubai but address an emerging global generation that essentially inaugurates the dawn of a new age. Driven by the challenge of survival, this generation is in search of something new as it attempts to conquer the moving boundaries of time and space. Indeed, it is a generation, which Dubai has come to perfectly symbolize: Generation Dubai.” (p.10)

“And there is no lasting happiness and appreciation for freedom in the absence of duty. An individual’s and, for that matter, a society’s survival and competitiveness is dependent on the individual’s civic engagement. In the long run, each individual, including the cosmopolitan nomad, will not escape – whether consciously or unconsciously – the desire to fulfill this basic need.” (p. 75)

“Dubai’s unbounded mercantilist drive demonstrates in fast-forward that trade and investments as a pursuit for its own sake are likely to lead to futility. The quest for material wealth must be complemented by a cultural, spiritual and civic engagement. Dubai is now reaching that juncture where its future success will also be dependent upon its ability to satisfy – in addition to the pursuit of private wealth – human nature’s basic needs for non-monetary nourishment. It is a juncture that will challenge, beyond Dubai, an entire generation. The rise in spirituality – independently of the brand of any particular religion – and the need for civic engagement, beyond democracy, are likely to shape the dawn of a new age.” (p. 78)

“It is at this juncture where Dubai is likely to be most challenged. It is the Dubai paradox: while Dubai must strive for limitlessness to appeal to the rest of the world, it must construct a form of civic engagement that builds a responsible society, though, without challenging the Maktoum family’s firm leadership of Dubai Inc.” (p. 75)