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Wed 24 Dec 2014 10:31 PM

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Why a downturn IS a laughing matter

More people are turning to comedy, so does that mean we’re set for a slowdown?

Why a downturn IS a laughing matter
Shane McGinley

With all this talk about oil prices falling and the rollercoaster ride that is local stock markets, it’s difficult to know at what point we are in the current economic cycle.

High profile Dubai executives earlier this month played down any risk and declared that the economy is coping well with a difficult global environment and is expected to grow about 4.5 percent this year, and even more in 2015.

However, in the last few days some anecdotal evidence has come my way. It’s not scientific, but it gives a glimpse into the mind-set of Dubai residents at the moment.

At dinner recently three friends from various different economic sectors were convinced that a downturn, or at least a slowdown, was already upon us.

The first works in real estate and reported that sales had become harder to come by and people were not parting with their money. Fair enough, this has been reported by many other experts.

The second has been working in the live entertainment business in Dubai for nearly 20 years. He claims that a downturn was good for business as people are more inclined to opt for live events, especially comedy or stand-up, as it is seen as a cheaper night out. So what is the current trend? He reports that his comedy gigs in recent weeks have been totally sold out, while during the boom days earlier in the year attendances were low.

Thirdly, it has often been widely claimed that people also go to the cinema a lot more during a downturn, when they feel the pinch in their wallet. So I asked my third friend how things were looking at the box office.

Sure enough, official figures show that over the last couple of months there has been a 9 percent rise in revenue at the box office and 11 percent more people are going to the cinema compared to this time last year.

It could be that people just have more money to throw around and are simply going to more gigs. Only time will tell.

But back in the summer, Masood Al Awar, CEO of Tasweek Real Estate Development and Marketing, who is famous in Dubai as the first real estate sales man to sell a freehold property, told me he believed the rise of Dubai's fast-growing residential real estate market will peak in 2015.

“We do a lot of analytics and we do a lot of market research. We know that every eight or seven years there are some disturbance in the market and nothing can climb so rapidly… I think 2015 will be the peak but if we sustain it, [growth] can be prolonged to avoid the downturn… avoid the pitfall [of 2008].”

Let’s see if the anecdotal evidence we are currently seeing proves him right.

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