Eric Ellis

Dubai’s debt crisis

A ‘new paradigm’ built on sand

A ‘new paradigm’ built on sand

At Dubai’s soaring, spurious peak, one factoid the emirate’s bling-burdened battalion of ‘corporate communications consultants’ liked to slip to junketing media was that Dubai had the world’s densest concentration of cranes. Impossible to verify but too good to ignore, the glib observation almost always made it into media reports. It compelled people to want to go where the action was: subliminally, it suggested an economy where the fast buck came easy.

And it certainly seemed true from the spas of Dubai’s ‘seven-star’ hotels, rising over a city-state-as-building-site which was also constructing that contrived archipelago for Premier League millionaires and their ilk. One towering temple to the Al-Maktoum clan’s ‘vision’ was so tall — or so it was often said, over flutes of Cristal at the China Moon champagne bar — that its Pakistani crane operator slept in the cabin nearly a kilometre up because to descend to ground level took so long and ate into his overtime earnings. Cosmopolitan Dubai was a ‘world city’, a ‘free zone’ where anyone of any creed from anywhere could get rich quick. And that yarn was devoured by chavvy main-chancers wanting to remake themselves some place where no one much knew or cared who they were.

But a more apposite factoid was the one that said Dubai had the world’s densest concentration of those overtanned, overpaid ‘corporate communications consultants’ — all selling a ‘new paradigm’: these sultans of sophistry conjured images of wise men in dishdashas having somehow conceived a uniquely Dubaian, highly developed reinvention of capitalism and commerce.

It was the sort of bogus twaddle I imagine Bernie Madoff spouted to eager ears in Floridian country clubs, Icelandic bankers to Middle England’s local authority treasurers, and Enron to everyone.

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