2 thoughts on “To have and have not in the UAE”

  1. I am moved to comment on this piece on the UAE. It is a good read and makes a clear point about wealth differences. I am disturbed however by the trend in the British press, a tendency found in some other European countries too, to criticise the Emirates, Dubai in particular, and damn them as the home of crooks and money-launderers where no serious person would want to live, surrounded as they are by extremes of wealth and poverty. This article is a minor example of what I mean. Other examples are more alarming, in the popular press and even, I find, in the comment columns of the FT.

    Painting Dubai as Gotham, possibly without the bats, shows complete ignorance of what the city and the UAE have achieved. Of course Dubai is attracting the wealthy and catering to their wishes, which are too glitzy for western tastes. People here do not bother to show envy or disapproval to those who wish to throw their money about, as the western press does. Jealousy is a very corrosive emotion. Most people here are too busy to be disturbed by gold-plated Lamborghinis or Bulgari residences.

    Dubai does not provide all of the social safeguards that many western countries have. Spending money extravagantly is a choice that a few make: most people that I know, at all levels, work hard and chose to spend their money in other less crazy ways. They take advantage of the fact that the UAE is a very well-run, efficient, safe and secure environment. It has superb communications. It is also a remarkably harmonious multi-cultural country. It is tightly controlled, but that is generally accepted to be part of the deal.

    It is a bit rich to criticise the UAE for attracting the wealthy, when London, for example, has been attracting Arab, then Russian and Chinese money in vast amounts since the middle of the last century. The UAE was put in 2022 on the “Grey List” of the FATF, and pressurised to use stronger controls to combat money-laundering and financial crime. The Emirates put new mechanisms in place and were taken off this list in February of this year. They deserve credit for this. There are plenty of countries with a worse record than the UAE.

    As for beggars in Dubai, controlling them is part of the UAE’s way of policing the country. The article ignores the fact that during Ramadhan in particular there are numerous charities that provide food, e.g. at Iftar on a daily basis.

    There is a wider point here. Most coverage of the Emirates in the British press shows a degree of envy and ignorance towards such a fast growing, prosperous and successful state. It is not a European country and should not be judged like one. I believe however that it demeans those western countries who regard cities like Dubai with a sourness and arrogance. Recent history, e.g. Brexit, has shown that such attitudes blind the English to their real position in the world. I am a great believer that before England adopts an air of superiority and lectures others on their behaviour, the English need to take careful stock of their own strengths and weaknesses, and ask themselves why their reputation is in such decline in recent years.

    Why cannot Britain look forward with optimism, like the Emirates, and stop looking back with misery and pessimism?

    Europe generally, the UK in particular, is in a slough of despond, and the envy and sourness that is so often displayed is a corrosive element. Dubai is an easy target for a wounded old lion.

    1. I was surprised to read the defence of the Emirates by former Ambassador Anthony Harris in response to a thought provoking article on the attraction and deployment of extreme wealth.

      Discomfort with super wealth is much more than a clash of taste and sensibilities. Aren’t the Ultra High Net Worth class wrong wherever they are, London or Dubai? Whether it’s London soup kitchens or Abu Dhabi Iftars the obscene inequalities remain. I wonder whether political prisoners in UAE such as the poet campaigner Ahmed Mansoor would recognise their imprisonment as “tightly controlled”. While the “old lion” lion has its place, it seems a bit of a distraction.

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