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Wed 8 Apr 2015 01:57 PM

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'You can see greed in people's eyes' – Mishal Kanoo talks Dubai

Prominent local businessman says the emirate has become synonymous with greed

'You can see greed in people's eyes' – Mishal Kanoo talks Dubai
mishal kanoo

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.

Manoj Sabharwal 4 years ago


Fantastic to hear such frank, honest & matured comments from a truly wealthy & successful person.

This obviously comes from being grounded in every way. I cannot agree more with Mr. Kanoo and while I have absolutely nothing against consumption, I urge people to look for value and work towards creating lasting value.

Abdul jaleel 4 years ago

Yes that's true, people are become greed , that time was good while father of nation was alive, now totally changed , every one think about 20% or mor than . I agreed with Mr. Mishal kanoo what he said ...

WHJ 4 years ago

There are two kinds of investors: those who prefer income over capital growth and those who are mostly interested in capital gain. Neither is wrong or right. It all depends on their risk profile. If one has an active growth or aggressive risk profile then one would be more focused on capital gain. If, however, one has a moderate risk profile then one would invest in income-yielding assets. This is not "a problem with a lot of people in this part of the world...", this is simply about risk/reward parameters.

Michael 4 years ago

How are you going to educate for that? In the schools ? This takes nothing a way from your wise assessment and experience of the situation. However the way the tree leans it grows. Basic values will only shift when there is a painful realization that you can't go pulling rabbits out of hats and giving your sons and daughters the good life without them focusing on studies and improving themselves inwardly.
I'm a foreign teacher and I have seen the good and the not so good. I have taught in Sharjah and Dubai and now I have a better quality of life living in Thailand. Really, scraping around in the desert where I can never be welcomed long term. I'm finished with teaching middle class and upper middle class Arabic students who have the drive in them but not patience to work hard. There is too much background noise for them to see and hear that the get rich life is not the way.
The real values are the warmth and love of family. Don't lose the richness which is there.

Veronica Chapman 4 years ago

I have lived in the emirates 35 years,British Expat, and had a real estate business absolutely agree with you, the younger generation take it all for granted. You where lucky if you had a.c in your accommodation, only around 3 roads what had Tarmac
On them. But there was always a togetherness of all nationalities,
I agree people want to know where do you live what car you drive,
Not healthy.

Minaka 4 years ago

Well said; greed is all that you see in Dubai these days. Sometimes you gotta say it as it is - and so good to hear it from a distinguished gentleman as yourself.

Mujeeb Haroon 4 years ago

Mishal Kanoo is now thinking wise and natural, Because greed make you do every worse and dirty things . Their is some unseen fear in near future. More worse things might happens when people are more greed. Or greedy people have little future like sand dunes, changes places with the wind.

Of coarse, everyone wish to earn more and more. Measures should be made on the limits of profits in order to let other lower wage people cannot be exploited. Better results will soon comes out for the prosperity of future.

fga 4 years ago

I love reading about Mishal Kanoo's thoughts on anything concerning business in Dubai. Very witty fellow. Lol.

Khurram Saeed 4 years ago

Mr.Kanoo is a wise and successful business man. And I agree with his opinion.
However after living in Dubai for 15 years ( Expat ) , having my children born here and growing up here I can say that the kids will form their opinion based on Dubai they see today.
In regards to the values , its the responsibility of parents to bring up kids with the right kind of values which ever part of world you live in be it Vegus , Dubai, London or Lahore

NBI 4 years ago

"Greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right. Greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures, the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge, has marked the upward surge of mankind and greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A." - gordon gekko (fictitious character)