Sean O'Grady: Is Dubai the 'New Lehmans'?

Is Dubai the “New Lehmans”? Not quite, at least on the broad numbers. Lehmans went down with debts of $500bn; the disarray in Dubai looks like losing everyone involved about $80bn, certainly not much when set against the $2,700bn ($2.7trillion) of banking losses accumulated over this crisis.

But the blow to confidence, at a time when the world is trying to crawl out of the worst downturn in three quarters of a century, is far more grievous. It has already shaken the stock markets; the fear now gripping them has the potential to induce more panic and set back recovery by months, if not years. That is prospect too horrible to contemplate.

Fortunately, we have had sufficient experience of financial crises to know precisely what needs to be done now; swift, bold international action. As with Iceland, the Ukraine, Hungary and many other states, Dubai can and should be saved. The damage is containable. Aid must come from Dubai’s partners in the United Arab Emirates, especially oil-rich Abu Dhabi; from the Gulf Cooperation Council, dominated by Saudi Arabia; and from the IMF. Abu Dhabi’s sovereign wealth fund alone is worth about $700bn, the biggest in the world. So the funds are there to organise some sort of rescue; the political will must be found.



If the rumours are to be believed, the British banking groups, as you might expect on their past record, are badly exposed to this latest mess, with the obvious potential for yet another substantial bill for the hard-pressed UK taxpayer. So we are entitled to know how much the banks stand to lose in Dubai. Early on in the credit crisis the G20 demanded transparency from the banks about the scale of their losses. Openness might help calm the incipient panic building around the banks once again. In any case, this is a harsh reminder that the credit crunch is far from over; and the global financial system is only functioning at all because it is on life-support provided by governments and central banks.



Short of oil, Dubai attempted to create an artificial economy from reclaimed land and borrowed capital; but it was unnatural, both economically and environmentally sense. Grand as Palm Island and those imperious tower blocks appear, they are badly devalued collateral, a financial mirage. As our banks are discovering, Dubai is simply sub-prime in the desert.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
sportSo, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Arts and Entertainment
Dennis speaks to his French teacher
tvThe Boy in the Dress, TV review
News
One father who couldn't get One Direction tickets for his daughters phoned in a fake bomb threat and served eight months in a federal prison
people... (and one very unlucky giraffe)
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
The Plaza Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia was one of the 300 US cinemas screening
filmTim Walker settles down to watch the controversial gross-out satire
Arts and Entertainment
Amy Adams and Christoph Waltz in Tim Burton's Big Eyes
film reviewThis is Tim Burton’s most intimate and subtle film for a decade
Life and Style
Mark's crab tarts are just the right size
food + drinkMark Hix cooks up some snacks that pack a punch
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that? The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year

Aren’t you glad you didn’t say that?

The worst wince-and-look-away quotes of the year
Hollande's vanity project is on a high-speed track to the middle of nowhere

Vanity project on a high-speed track to nowhere

France’s TGV network has become mired in controversy
Sports Quiz of the Year

Sports Quiz of the Year

So, how closely were you paying attention during 2014?
Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry, his love of 'Bargain Hunt', and life as a llama farmer

Alexander Armstrong on insulting Mary Berry and his love of 'Bargain Hunt'

From Armstrong and Miller to Pointless
Sanchez helps Gunners hold on after Giroud's moment of madness

Sanchez helps Gunners hold on

Olivier Giroud's moment of madness nearly costs them
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect