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The Middle East @ Work

An unclear view

Richard Core Mar 14, 2008

The air here in Dubai this morning was thick. Some strange combination of sand blowing off the desert, dirt from the construction sites, and fog coming in off the Persian Gulf. Made it hard to see more than a couple of hundred yards ahead.

I know this is an imperfect analogy, but that’s kind of the problem we’ve been having the past two weeks. We came here to figure out whether business can change the Middle East. In Egypt and the northern part of the region, where we spent our first week, crowded old cities and religious differences make even the simplest transaction a contest of wills. Down here in Dubai they all but say. “Please, come. Spend your money, start your companies. Pay no taxes.” That seems to have worked the way Dubai wants it to, so far.

Still, my lasting memory of this city is going to be its incompleteness. Not just physically, although that for sure. But also because for all the building and booming, Dubai’s place in the global economy still isn’t a sure thing. Too many people here are being left behind. And I get a sense a lot of the rest of them are here because they’re afraid to miss out on . . . something . . . they just don’t know what.

So, can business change the Middle East? Sure, and it already has. We just don’t know how much more.

— Kai Ryssdal

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