Imagine you’re a city-state that has no real economy, whose population left en masse during a recession, and which came close to defaulting on $60 billion (Rs2.73 trillion) of debt. What do you do next? Proceed to tell the United Nations that you’re ready to serve as its next headquarters.
If this is too hard to believe, remind yourself just as Dubai tirelessly reminds its tourists: that there’s “nowhere like Dubai”. True, nowhere in the world will a government brag about its worthiness as headquarters to the premier world body—as Dubai did on Thursday—barely two months after its flagship state company announced a debt standstill.
Nowhere in the world either will a government spend so much on ostentation—indoor ski slopes, the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa) that was inaugurated this month—when there is no real foundation. Dubai, unlike its neighbours, has no oil.
Then again, as the boom years of last decade show, you can always make dreams by building a Burj-high mountain of debt. Of course, dreams built on a foundation of sand might just come crashing down.