Don’t go overboard

Critics of Dubai’s takeover of P&O should take a look at the facts. In a time of post-9/11 paranoia and anti-outsourcing protests, it’s hardly a shock that Dubai’s takeover of P&O has sparked controversy in the US. What is surprising, though, is the extent of the outcry and how people across the political spectrum have used it to score points.

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By  Richard Agnew Published  February 26, 2006

|~|06-josephc4943_200.jpg|~||~|Critics of Dubai’s takeover of P&O should take a look at the facts. In a time of post-9/11 paranoia and anti-outsourcing protests, it’s hardly a shock that Dubai’s takeover of P&O has sparked controversy in the US. What is surprising, though, is the extent of the outcry and how people across the political spectrum have used it to score points. In the last week, Republicans and Democrats have united in their condemnation of the deal, (which gives Dubai Ports World (DPW) control over ports in six US cities) among them, Hillary Clinton. Expected to run for president in 2008, she won’t have made any Arab friends by calling for a ban on foreign takeovers of ports. Two Republican governors also said they may cancel port leasing arrangements in their states if the deal goes through. But perhaps most worrying was Homeland Security boss, Peter King’s question: “How are they going to guard against things like infiltration by Al Qaeda, or corruption?” Perhaps King and his department should look at the facts. Not only is there no evidence that security would suffer, the deal has already been passed by the US Committee on Foreign Investment, responsible for evaluating security issues around foreign takeovers. DPW would also not have the power to change regulations, would therefore be subject to the same safety procedures as P&O, and has an excellent security record. More importantly, the critics miss the main point — that the West will ultimately benefit through Arab takeovers. Ultimately, it is in the US’ interest to encourage foreign investment and trade. Deals such as these increase productivity by introducing new skills and technologies — something DPW has been keen to promote. The protectionists also fail to mention that security fears have hardly scared off US companies from setting up shop in the Middle East. To his credit, president Bush has so far resisted the pressure and supported the deal. While the New York Times was busy trotting old facts in a report entitled ‘Dirty Dubai dealers help finance terrorists’ last week, the president showed much more maturity. Through moves such as these, Dubai is leading the Arab world into the modern age. What’s wrong with that?||**||Pride and power|~||~||~|It’s that time of the year where once again, we reveal the world’s fifty most powerful Arabs. And once again, we expect to receive the usual deluge of calls in the coming days — mainly from prominent businesspeople that are unhappy they have not been included, or with their position in the list. For that, we apologise in advance. But of course, when you have a list of 50, you can only have 50 names. The original shortlist we created was over 200 strong — and it took a lot of arguments before we managed to whittle it down. Also, what this shows more than anything is that Arabs are now increasingly holding dominant and senior positions of influence all around the globe. Be it in business, in media, in film-making, academia, medicine, aviation, shipping or technology, the rise of Arab power in the past few years has been nothing short of phenomenal. It is something the region should be proud of, and to celebrate. Which is exactly what we are doing in this week’s issue of Arabian Business.||**||Double delight|~||~||~|Last week, wrote in this column that Dubai deserves its own Formula One Grand Prix. Not surprisingly, I have had many phone calls — all from Bahrain — accusing me of sour grapes. That simply isn’t the case. I have been to the Bahrain race twice before, and will be there again next week. I am proud to be part of the Formula One circus that will descend on Bahrain for a weekend, and like many people, agree that it is one of the best circuits in the world. But that doesn’t mean we should be content and sit still. Europe now hosts nine separate Formula One races. Why can’t the Middle East have more than just one? What is to stop Dubai making a bid to stage its own race, not instead of but in addition to Bahrain? It would make practical and commercial sense. Personally, I think Dubai would put on a great show. And a much better show than Bahrain!||**||

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