The huge growth in Dubai has been partly fueled by enormous spending on PR. Dubai has had lavish and largely uncritical coverage for years. Now the newsflow has turned and those at the top seem to be lashing out in all directions.
In mid-November, Tim Clark, the President of Emirates made a speech saying people should not underestimate Dubai and that they would be surprised by its resilience and future growth. Either he was being disingenuous or he really did not know how serious the problems of Dubai World were, which would be rather surprising for a man at the top of one of Dubai’s most important companies. Now the airline’s Vice-Chairman, Maurice Flanagan, a man who should surely know better, is complaining that the press is having a “hate Dubai week” and he hopes they will resume “more sensible coverage soon”.
Companies run into trouble in any country but when a company that is owned by, or closely linked to the government makes a bald announcement that it might have trouble settling its debts, it is very serious indeed. If they make this statement just before a national holiday, without any sign of a rescue plan in place, they deserve everything that comes.
Dubai clearly does have a future but, like a drug addict, it needs a sharp dose of reality before it can be saved. Denial will not help the patient.
Whilst one might expect the head of the airline to do his best to make soothing statements at such a difficult time, Mr Clark would do everyone a favour by acknowledging the seriousness of the situation.