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Reinventing Dubai

Reinventing Dubai

The financial crisis may have spawned worldwide negative coverage for Dubai, but this may be the emirate's chance to modify its global image.

November 30, 2008 10:43 by

Dubai is having a rough time. Not only have the authorities finally admitted at DIFC Week that the emirate has been, and will continue to be affected by the global economic slowdown, but it also has to cope with a barrage of negative press from the world’s media.

The latest publication to highlight Dubai’s fall is The Times, a UK-based newspaper, in an article titled “The party’s over in Dubai.” The story begins with a human interest story about two Britons who moved to Dubai, only to discover the crunch has swallowed their jobs, and banks aren’t giving mortgages.

The author then lists a number of rumors (Abu Dhabi wants to buy Dubai’s iconic companies and buildings), mergers (Amlak and Taweel) and scandals (the arrest of Dubai Islamic Bank’s former CEO) and explains that 2008 has seen the boom that attracted expatriates seeking better standards of living and job for year go bust.

Other articles published in November include an article in titled “Dubai – built on cheap credit that is now disappearing fast” published on November 26; a piece published in The Times titled “First came a boom, then fireworks, but is Dubai’s property market in trouble?” published on November 24; and an aptly named article named “Doubting Dubai” published in Time magazine on November 5. The list goes on.

And while Dubai isn’t new to negative press, what is exceedingly obvious in the articles written recently is a stinging undertone of a well-timed “we told you so.” Why? Because well before the credit crunch, Dubai, with all its record breaking structures and phantasmagorical future developments, was always in doubt. International journalists have been baffled by the emirate’s construction boom, and were often unable grasp Dubai’s vast plans. But as the emirate’s developments took shape, like The Palm and the residential projects Emaar has built, the hard doubts softened, but only slightly.

The global financial meltdown, however, has brought back those fervent doubts, and proved to number of Dubai skeptics that in spite of the emirate’s big plans, it, too, was subject to the world’s swaying economy. More importantly, the global crisis has shown that Dubai could never have been a safe haven.

And while the negative press may rub the authorities the wrong way, it may help refurbish Dubai’s image: rather than being the emirate that can break records and defy gravity, Dubai can now considered ‘real’ and part of the world’s economy.

Although that may be little consolation to those who have lost millions in Dubai’s property and stock markets, in the long run, it may attract more foreign investors who were apprehensive of Dubai’s rapid growth, and who questioned the viability of the emirate’s future plans.

Indeed, with the news that Nakheel is considering scaling down its developments, and the emirate’s tourist board is revising its goal to attract 15 million visitors annually by 2015, Dubai may soon be perceived as a real Middle Eastern economy worth investing in, rather than a figment of a rich child’s imagination.—DB

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