Tuesday, 1 December 2009

The Gulf’s Disneyland under pressure – the ‘Tallest Building Index’ is back

Singapore may not be the only real life Disneyland in the world. The crown was contested by Dubai, the surreal emirate in the Gulf.
Dubai is a city where ski slopes and man-made palm islands are constructed. Twenty million dollars are spent on a hotel opening bash at the height of the global recession.

No, this is not a computer image. It is the real thing - the Burj Dubai

Just like reality hit Euro-Disney soon after its construction, the global recession has hit Dubai. The city-state has been 'adjusting' its development priorities for many months.
It even sought, and obtained, a bailout from its wealthy federation partner: Abu Dhabi. Just last week, two Abu Dhabi banks purchased bonds worth USD five billion issued by Dubai. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Central Bank (read Abu Dhabi money) has purchase bonds issued by Dubai before during this recent crisis.
It does not seem to be enough. Dubai World, the emirate's flagship corporate entity, has requested a 'standstill' on all its debt obligations. Dubai World is the emirate's largest conglomerate.
The 'standstill' essentially means that Nakheel, a Dubai World company, is possibly unable to repay USD 3.5 billion in debt due next month. With Abu Dhabi's help, Dubai will ride out the storm.
It is the reconfirmation of the Skyscraper Index or the Tower of Babel Index that is worth a mention.

The index defines the relationship between the completion of the tallest building in the world and a slowdown in the economic cycle.
The logic is simple. The 'tallest' buildings are started at the height of the economic boom. By the time planning, design, financing and construction is complete the economy has tipped into its downward phase again.
It is believed that Nakheel's Burj Dubai became the tallest building in the world in late 2008 – just about the time the economic slowdown started gathering pace. (For marketing reasons, Nakheel kept the exact details of height confidential.)
The relationship is intact, especially now that Dubai's woes are generally accepted as representing the worst excesses of the recent economic party.
It is often said that humans tend to see only what they wish to see. To those disciplined enough, the Skyscraper Index may provide warning signs for the next downturn. Of course, it might help if we first see all the empty floors currently available in Dubai occupied!

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