Arabian Business Weekly Update May 1, 2005

Dubai’s plans for a financial centre are being derailed again. FOR the second time in less than a year, the Dubai International Financial Centre has been rocked by unexpected high-level departures. The DIFC insists there is no crisis, and it is business as usual. Really? Let's have a quick re-cap of recent history. Last June, the DIFC sacked its two most senior regulators, Ian Hay Davison and Phillip Thorpe, two men of immense international stature.

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By  Anil Bhoyrul Published  May 1, 2005

DIFC needs a reality check|~||~||~|Dubai’s plans for a financial centre are being derailed again. FOR the second time in less than a year, the Dubai International Financial Centre has been rocked by unexpected high-level departures. The DIFC insists there is no crisis, and it is business as usual. Really? Let's have a quick re-cap of recent history. Last June, the DIFC sacked its two most senior regulators, Ian Hay Davison and Phillip Thorpe, two men of immense international stature. Hay Davison and Thorpe's crime was to suggest that some DIFC members were busy awarding land contracts to themselves. This is a fact that has never been denied by the DIFC. Its solution to the problem was “sack the messenger and hope it all goes away". It hasn't. As we report this week, five more senior DIFC regulators are packing their bags. Ironically, they are on their way to Qatar, to work for their former boss Phillip Thorpe. In the coming weeks, up to six more DIFC officials could be Qatar-bound. The DIFC's explanation is that this was only to be expected, given that all good executives are always on the look out for good new opportunities. Has it not crossed the DIFC's mind that there may be a more serious problem here? Could it not be the case that the international community is losing confidence in Dubai's ability to compete with Hong Kong and London as world-class financial centres? Or maybe that even the DIFC's own staff no longer have confidence in the regulatory structure set up by the DIFC? Or that few people in the financial community really believe that trading at the Dubai International Financial Exchange will begin on September 26 this year? Qatar and Bahrain are well on the way to developing impressive financial centres. Dubai is in danger of coming third. ||**||Hezbollah’s challenge|~||~||~|The withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon last week was a historic and joyous occasion. Two months after the death of Rafik Hariri, a new sense of optimism is engulfing the region, and there is even talk of proper diplomatic relations between Lebanon and Syria. But there remains an unknown factor in all future plans: Hezbollah. Undoubtedly, its armed resistance has forced Israel into compromise, and Hezbollah is — and should be — applauded for some of its achievements. But interim prime minister Najeeb Miqati's assertion, that he will not ask Hezbollah to disarm, is a worry. It goes against the demands of the international community — the same international community, which, after all, has helped to secure the Syrian withdrawal. Hezbollah must one day accept that bullets and ballots don't mix. ||**||Twenty-one cheers for Saudi|~||~||~|This week we celebrate the best of Saudi Arabian business, with the announcement of the winners of the prestigious Saudi achievement awards. There are 21 winners in total, but the real winner is Saudi business. This is a country beset with political problems, and one that the international — and financial community is becoming increasingly uneasy with. But as our awards show, whether in media, technology, creativity, IT, construction, oil and gas, or engineering, Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer the business community. Its companies are some of the most profitable in the world, and the most efficiently run. Its managers are some of the best trained, and its craftsmen some of the most highly skilled. The attendance of 300 of Saudi Arabia's leading businessmen at the awards ceremony is testimony to this. For once, we should all celebrate Saudi business. ||**||

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