East beats west

The age-old collision between the west and the east, and vice versa, has dominated headlines here and abroad over the past month. But politics, religion and cultural differences are not the only focal points to have been affected. Business issues between western and Middle Eastern countries have also seen their fair share of the action.

  • E-Mail
By  James Bennett Published  March 13, 2006

The age-old collision between the west and the east, and vice versa, has dominated headlines here and abroad over the past month. But politics, religion and cultural differences are not the only focal points to have been affected. Business issues between western and Middle Eastern countries have also seen their fair share of the action. The major clash has come in the form of the ongoing and frankly farcical Dubai Ports World saga. This involved large numbers of concerned US congressmen and women expressing their ‘astonishment’ at how an Arabic company could have eventual control over the security of six of its largest ports – of course any mention of racism is kept well under wraps. Even the top man himself, President Bush, was forced to step into the ring and threaten to veto any attempt to block DPW’s takeover of P&O thanks to the UAE being one of the US’s allies in the war against terror. Then, in an unconnected role reversal, East tried to outdo West with the UAE-based Mecca Cola, stating it would launch coffee shops under the brand name ‘Mecca Café’ to provide an alternative to established Western outlets in Muslim countries. Strategical clashes they maybe, but this just shows how far the region has come in recent times. 20 years ago regional companies were virtually unheard of in the West and the Middle East wasn’t even on the business map. Today things have drastically changed, and the March issue of CEO Middle East has some great stories demonstrating how and why the region’s companies are, unlike the US government, fighting back fairly. James Hogan, CEO of Gulf Air and our cover story this month, is a perfect example of West and East collaborating to achieve mutual business benefits. In the face of Abu Dhabi withdrawing as a major shareholder, he is working together with both the Omani and Bahraini governments to bring the airline back to where it belongs – in profit and flying proudly across the world’s skies. Let’s just hope the price of fuel doesn’t continue rising. Closer to home, we speak to Dubai-based Faisal Belhoul, the young founder and managing partner of Ithmar Capital, a GCC-focused private equity investment company, that is making huge inroads, not just in the region, but also abroad, as the sole Middle Eastern representative at one of the world’s largest private equity conferences. Now if that isn’t putting the Gulf on the map I don’t know what is. And away from Dubai, we take an in-depth look at one of the smallest but most aspiring countries in the region, Qatar and how, as the rest of the world struggles to cope with a lack of natural gas supplies, it is taking advantage of the situation with its enormous reserves. Its north field, measuring a huge 6000 km has enough energy to last for another 200 years – not a bad resource to have on your doorstep. A series of ambitious construction projects are also fast developing and hoping to draw in over a million tourists by 2010. With Doha hosting this December’s 15th Asian Games it can’t be far off achieving that target. Both Western and Middle Eastern countries want to and are doing business together. Let’s hope it continues and nothing else gets in the way.

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code