Dubai has become synonymous with greed, one of the emirate’s most prominent businessmen, Mishal Kanoo, has said.
Whether symbolised with a fancy property, a top-of-the-range car or the most expensive clothing brands, Dubai is obsessed with luxury, the deputy chairman of Kanoo Group, one of the largest and longest running Gulf family businesses, said.
“It’s a first statement [of Dubai], I’m sad to say,” Kanoo told Arabian Business in an exclusive interview published in the magazine this week.
“[Although], you have to distinguish, there’s a cut off. The people who are old enough to have lived during the early boom times, the ‘60s and ‘70s, will have a different perspective than those who’ve grown up in the ‘90s and 2000s. Because those who have lived through what it was like to see and go through the birth of the nation and the pains they went through are less likely to be focused on bling, because it was very hard for them and they saw what their parents went through.
“Yes, who doesn’t like luxury, whoever says he doesn’t is lying, but to the point that it becomes the all-encompassing thing, the way you want to be seen … there’s no other distinguishing factor for them.
“If you look at most countries in most parts of the world, a Corolla or Hyundai Accord would be the average car, here the average car is either BMW or Mercedes and I’m not talking about the smaller series, either. When you have that it shows that there is more of a concentration on status than there is a concentration on value.
“There’s no moral judgement in this, it’s just an observation of the reality of what’s on the ground.”
Kanoo said the greed was particularly evident in the Dubai property market. Speculators were obsessed with huge, quick profits that were unrealistic.
“There’s a lot of people thinking ‘I’m going to make a good living out of this’, rather than saying ‘this is an important part of the economy’ or ‘this is a place where I want to live’,” he said.
“A problem with a lot of people in this part of the world is the realisation that the value of what their buying is really ridiculous. They’re basing it not on the yield, but on the capital gain.
“The problem is, capital gain can only happen if someone else is willing to pay more. What if someone isn’t? What if the market dries up?
“You can see the greed in people’s eyes when they automatically think not in movements of 3-4-5 percent, but in 20-30 percent movements. This is unsustainable.
“Unfortunately, a lot of people will say this is Dubai, this is the UAE or the Gulf, and the answer is, no it’s human nature, the greed part is human nature and you cannot legislate for greed, you can’t.”
Kanoo argued there was little other than education that could be done to minimise such attention on status. He did not agree with taxing luxury goods to discourage consumers.
“The ones that would be hurt by taxes would be what you consider middle class, but the super-rich, a person worth a few billion … how is that going to hurt them?” he said.
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