Dubai is a beautiful, unnatural folly of man's hubris, an oasis built by slaves in the desert so there would have to come a day of reckoning. It has arrived. I wondered then how long such a place could last now that the rest of the world was beginning to tighten its environmental and financial belts. Today the answer came out. Dubai is in trouble. Big trouble.
THE DARK SIDE OF DUBAI
December 3, 2009
Something has flickered in Sheikh Mohammed’s smile. The ubiquitous cranes have paused on the skyline, as if stuck in time. There are countless buildings half-finished, seemingly abandoned. In the swankiest new constructions ~ like the vast Atlantis hotel, a giant pink castle built in 1,000 days for $1.5bn on its own artificial island ~ where rainwater is leaking from the ceilings and the tiles are falling off the roof.
This Neverland was built on the Never-Never ~ and now the cracks are beginning to show. Suddenly it looks less like Manhattan in the sun than Iceland in the desert. Dubai is not just a city living beyond its financial means; it is living beyond its ecological means.
You stand on a manicured Dubai lawn and watch the sprinklers spray water all around you.
You see tourists flocking to swim with dolphins.
You wander into a mountain-sized freezer where they have built a ski slope with real snow.
And a voice at the back of your head squeaks:
this is the desert! ~ the most water-stressed place on the planet.
How can this be happening?
How is it possible?
The very earth is trying to repel Dubai, to dry it up and blow it away. The new Tiger Woods Golf Course needs four million gallons of water to be pumped on to its grounds every day, or it would simply shrivel and disappear on the winds.
The city is regularly washed over with dust-storms that fog up the skies and turn the skyline into a blur. When the dust parts, heat burns through. It cooks anything that is not kept constantly, artificially wet. And there is grit everywhere!
Dr Mohammed Raouf, the environmental director of the Gulf Research Centre, sounds sombre as he sits in his Dubai office and warns: “This is a desert area, and we are trying to defy its environment. It is very unwise. If you take on the desert, you will lose.”
And therein lies my point ~ Dubai is a dying monument to greed and excess, a crumbling sub-prime in the desert, and eventually the desert winds will reclaim it ~ for nature always outlives man’s hubris and folly.
Debt strapped Dubai World who can’t pay its bills (60 billion dollar debt ) is a dying monument to world-wide greed and excess and its obvious consequences ~ for in attempting to create an artificial economy from reclaimed land and borrowed capital, it has become a crumbling sub-prime in the desert:
What was obvious to a few six months ago is now becoming apparent to the world ~ as the tasteless and gaudy monument to western capitalism and greed, Dubai, begins not only to lose its luster but its ability to pay its debts while the world financial markets stagger nervously. And that would include Wall Street investors such as Goldman Sachs.
Property prices in Dubai have plunged by 50% since 2008, large projects have been canceled while severely underpaid expatriate workers have left in droves. Scores of buildings sit unfinished while luxury houses and apartments are unsold or empty. Dubai’s overall debt load is actually 80 billion dollars which underscores the gravity of the present crisis.
As the Associated Press reported on November 26th ~ ”After months of denial that the economic downturn even touched it, the Dubai government earlier this year showed signs of trying to deal with the financial fallout that has halted dozens of projects and prompted an exodus of expatriate workers.
Last week, Sheik Mohammed demoted several prominent members of Dubai’s corporate elite and replaced them with members of the ruling family, including his two sons, one of whom is his designated heir.”
In other words, Sheik Mohammed has gone into denial about the possible financial collapse of his fake paradise and surrounded himself with members of his ruling family to ensure the world does not learn the truth about the dark side of Dubai. As such, Dubai’s debt debacle is rightfully stoking new fears for investors across the globe ~ the potential of government default by heavily indebted nations.
On Friday, the award winning Independent writer, Johann Hari, who has been on top of this story for months, spelled out the truth ~
"Dubai is a morally bankrupt dictatorship built by slave labour ~Dubai is finally financially bankrupt ~ but it has been morally bankrupt all along. The idea that Dubai is an oasis of freedom on the Arabian peninsular is one of the great lies of our time…Yes, it has Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts and the Gucci styles, but beneath these accouterments, there is a dictatorship built by slaves.”
Hari has been there and fully experienced this dying monument to greed and excess ~
” The people who really built the city can be seen in long chain-gangs by the side of the road, or toiling all day at the top of the tallest buildings in the world, in heat that Westerners are told not to stay in for more than 10 minutes. They were conned into coming, and trapped into staying. Human Rights Watch calls this system “slavery.”The Burg Dubai, the tallest building in the World at over 800 metres, on November 23, 2009 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. A six-month delay to repay 36 Billion GBP debt has been requested by Dubai. According to reports ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum is currently in neighbouring Abu Dhabi attempting to negotiate a bail-out. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)
Yet the Westerners who have flocked to Dubai brag that they “love” the city, because they don’t have to pay any taxes, and they have domestic slaves to do all the hard work. They train themselves not to see the pain. But Dubai’s bankruptcy does not end there: it is ecologically bust.
This is a city built in the burning desert, where everything shrivels up and blows away if it is not kept artificially cold all the time. That’s why it has the highest per capita carbon emissions on earth ~ some 250 percent higher even than America’s. The city has to ship in desalinated water ~ which is more costly than oil.
When it runs out of cash, it will run out of water. Today Dubai will be bailed out by the United Arab Emirates, the oil-rich country of which it is only one state. But the oil will not last forever. More importantly, there is no Bank of Morality that could provide a bailout for this sinister mirage in the desert.”
But to really understand the underpinnings of this crumbling fake paradise ~ you must read Johann Hari’s THE DARK SIDE OF DUBAI written in April of 2009 ~ when Hari rightfully predicted
” Once the manic burst of building has stopped and the whirlwind has slowed, the secrets of Dubai are slowly seeping out. This is a city built from nothing in just a few wild decades on credit and ecocide, suppression and slavery. Dubai is a living metal metaphor for the neo-liberal globalised world that may be crashing ~ at last ~ into history. “
"I sold my house and my belongings to raise the thousand pounds fee," said one.
"I was promised a high salary but when I arrived, it soon became clear I'd been lied to."
The average worker's salary in Dubai is around £3 a day. They often work double shifts to try to make more money, toiling for hours in the baking heat.
The new subway network going through Sheikh Zayed road in Dubai. The shock from Dubai's move to suspend payments due on a slice of government-backed debt spilled over on November 26, 2009 into world markets and caused a sharp weakening in global Islamic bonds. The move to restructure the state-owned Dubai World and the proposal to request a minimum six-month moratorium on its maturing debt has also triggered fears of a domino effect across the emirate's indebted state-run corporates, pushing debt rating agencies to slash the grading of Dubai companies. (KARIM SAHIB/AFP/Getty Images)
With the background of Jumairah Island towers, people practice golf in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Nov.27, 2009. Investors recoiled from risky assets on Friday and dumped shares in Asian banks and builders, fearing a Dubai debt default could reignite the financial turmoil of the credit crisis. (AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili)
Allen L Roland is a practicing psychotherapist, author and lecturer who also shares a daily political and social commentary on his weblog and website allenroland.com He also guest hosts a monthly national radio show
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