Friday, November 27, 2009

Dubai - The Most Important Story In The News Today

Dubai,one of the major members of the United Arab Emirates is apparently on the verge of going bust.

Dubai’s debt woes may worsen to become a “major sovereign default” that roils developing nations and cuts off capital flows to emerging markets, Bank of America Corp. said.

“One cannot rule out -- as a tail risk -- a case where this would escalate into a major sovereign default problem, which would then resonate across global emerging markets in the same way that Argentina did in the early 2000s or Russia in the late 1990s,” Bank of America strategists Benoit Anne and Daniel Tenengauzer wrote in a report.

A default would lead to a “sudden stop of capital flows into emerging markets” and be a “major step back” in the recovery from the global financial crisis, they wrote.

Emerging-market stocks around the world have slumped for two days on concern a debt restructuring by Dubai World, with $59 billion of liabilities, will add to the $1.72 trillion of losses and writedowns from the global credit freeze. The MSCI Emerging Markets Index fell 1.9 percent to 940.30 as of 1:55 p.m. in New York, extending this week’s decline to 2.6 percent.

Dubai, which borrowed $80 billion in a four-year construction boom to transform its economy into a tourism and financial hub, suffered the world’s steepest property slump in the recession. Home prices fell 50 percent from their 2008 peak, according to Frankfurt-based Deutsche Bank AG.

The story's actually pretty simple. Dubai was a playground for the major players,sort of a Middle East Switzerland.Because of their bank secrecy laws, relatively Western-friendly atmosphere and the free-spending ways of the Sultan, Not only was capital flowing in from all of the Middle East (Iran, for example) but from Europe and America as well.

As a consequence, the Persian Gulf Emirate borrowed billions to build itself into a tourism and trade mecca. Dubai boasted indoor ski slopes manmade islands, casinois the world's tallest Office building tower and the up and coming Dubai World, a tourist complex designed to rival Disneyland and Vegas combined.

What happened is that increased scrutiny of tax havens in Europe and America cut into the offshore banking trade, oil prices plunged, and and the Emirate was faced problems with people paying them for various services. Property prices have plunged by 50 percent since last year, the Emirate canceled ongoing projects, and expatriate workers without jobs simply left, leaving buildings unfinished, apartments sitting empty with no buyers and infrastructure to service them incomplete.

So as a consequence, DubaiWorld - which like all other commerce in the Emirate is owned by the ruling Al Maktoum family - asked for a restructuring of about $80 billion worth of debt with a suspension of payments for six months. The effect this had on hedge funds and companies invested in Dubai can be imagined.Oil prices went down to $74 per barrel, and the Dow plunged 150 points.

So, why is this so important?

First it's another shock to an already weakened global financial remember, Dubai isn't some third world hellhole, but about as close to Belgium or The Caymans as anything in that part of the world is likely to become.

Second, the US has an arrangement with countries like Dubai - we protect them militarily, and they continue vote in OPEC to allow the oil trade to continue in dollars, thus importing our inflation. If Dubai needs to exercise its power in the UAE to vote stop doing that to get their own financial house in order, the effect on the dollar can be imagined.


B.Poster said...

The las paragraph pretty much says it all. It seems more likely than not that Dubai will be forced to stop voting in a manner that would be beneficial to the US and as you say the effect on the dollar can be imagined. Given all of the problems that the US has, a massive national debt, a worn down military, a nuclear arsenal that has degraded along with a lack of financial ability to fix it to the level that would be necessary for the United States to remain a major world power, and now this on top of all of that. Even without the latest news from Dubai, America's days as a major world power are all but over. I think this pretty much seals the deal. America is finished as a major world power.

The question is what to do now. I think America should focus on its basic survival. This will likely mean cutting deals with the major powers of Russia, China, India, and Venezuela where and when such things are possible.

Also, a focus should be made on upgrading the nuclear arsenal. The goal here is not to actually challenge Russia and China globally as a major world power. This is all but impossible right now. The goal here will be to make America secure enough that those powers will stay out of its affairs. In addition, the borders should be secured, all of our own oil and gas reserves should be developed and more refineries should be built. Finally, the Government should focus on maintaining the country's territorial integrity. As the country is weakened other major powers may want to carve it into "spheres of influence." The government should be mindful of this and work to prevent this from happening.

If all of this is done, the country may just be able to survive. Unfortunately with current bunch who run things within both the Democrat and Republican parties it is hard to be optimistic that any of this will be done.

The first thing that is needed is a frank assessment of where we are as a country, which I have provided in this post. Unfortunately from the media and the Republican and Democrtat powers that be all we get is delusions.

B.Poster said...

"...we protect them militarily." Given how the United States has gone wobbly on its commitments to Japan and South Korea of late with regards to North Korea, its sucking up to Iran, its abandonment of Poland, its betrayal of Georgia, its eagerness to abandon Iraq and Afghanistan, its worn down military, and the general desire on the part of the American electorate to disengage from most areas where the military currently operates it would be prudent for a nation who has a defense committment from America to ask themselves two questions.
1.) Will America come to our aid? 2.)Can America come to our aid?

In the case of the UAE, America would probably defend it if it possibly could, however, the American people would probably not support it and in a conflict with a country such as Iran, Russia and China would likely come down on the side of Iran. As such, it is unlikely that America would be able to prevail in such a conflict.

In addition, a defense agreement with America makes the UAE a bigger target than it already is. As such, this type of agreement has negative utility for the UAE and Dubai. I would expect them to cancel this as soon as possible.