A downturn in sentiment has hit Middle East markets like Dubai as the global financial crisis continues.
The high profile marketing of the last few years has meant the lens of the global media has been turned towards the regions of promise in the East.
But what of the balance of the region? If Europe for example refuses to be categorised homogenously then the rest of the Middle East needs to be understood as highly granulated, between large, wealthy markets like Saudi Arabia, established players like Kuwait, and small but very liquid states such as Qatar.
Abu Dhabi is another Emirate, closely associated with the profile of Dubai, and it's important to understand more precisely the relationship between the two.
The 100% Abu Dhabi Government-owned Mubadala is responsible for delivering the economic and urban plan "Vision 2030", interweaving the industrial pillars of the economy. The scale of ambition is staggering, and this long term intervention is a growing theme.
'Emiratisation' is the term normally used for the UAE leadership's goal of increasing employment opportunities for Emirati citizens. This is legislated for, and includes affirmative action in quotas in companies based in the UAE. However another form of Emiratisation is currently occurring.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai are talked about as two separate states, but we predict an upsurge in a shared UAE identity. Local people see themselves as Emiratis first, and Dubai or Abu Dhabi residents second.
Brand UAE will not be allowed to fail around the world due to the performance of one centre. The large scale intervention by the Central Bank of the UAE in supporting banks across the country in recent weeks proves this. However, we would expect the nature of this intervention to be "buy-out" not "bail-out". This indicates a higher degree of coordination between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the medium to long term. We expect the days of unilateral Dubai expansion to be over.
But where Abu Dhabi lags behind, is in the development of the retail financial services industry. Confidence has been not only badly dented, but never nurtured in the first place for the smaller direct investor.
Some of the investors into the local market have had no financial education and have suffered massive losses. Whilst in Dubai the bank distribution of investment products is well established, it is less so in Abu Dhabi. What is needed is a significant increase in investor education, and the advisory value chain is where it needs to take place.
Nick Tolchard, head of International Development Division, Invesco Perpetual
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