Dubai holds no fears for business
Dubai is the lowest-risk city for employers looking to set up operations in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, according to a new global survey released yesterday.
The emirate’s high scores in key criteria including its education system, government support for businesses, and regulations governing hiring and firing helped it pip local Gulf Doha for regional top-spot in the 2012 People Risk Index, compiled by Aon Hewitt, the human resources arm of global insurance giant Aon.
Abu Dhabi was not included in the rankings.
While Dubai was flying high in 29th spot globally, the region’s riskiest spots were judged to be the troubled trinity of Baghdad, Sana’a and Damascus - which took the bottom three slots in the 131-city survey.
However, while they may all share the unwanted distinction of having experienced armed conflict in recent times, Aon Hewitt’s MENA chief executive Markus Wiesner told 7DAYS that the risks considered by the survey’s authors went beyond gauging the likelihood of violence.
“We are not necessarily talking about physical safety, we are talking about safety from an organisational perspective - meaning, how easy do organisations find it to recruit, employ, attract and retain the people and the talent they need,” he said.
Wiesner said even when the shooting stops, the damage to the country, through the eyes of potential investors, can outlast the conflict - long-term strife can deprive an “entire generation” of education, he said, leaving citizens without the skills sought by businesses.
However, conflict needn’t kill a country’s business reputation entirely. The survey still put the Bahraini capital Manama in fourth spot regionally, and 49th globally, despite recent unrest.
The chaos in Cairo wasn’t enough to knock it below relatively peaceful rivals including Amman. Changing the perception of those regional cities towards the bottom of the list won’t happen in one or two years, Wiesner said.
So could Dubai realistically hope to be seen as one of the top-ten low-risk locations for global business, an elite currently topped by New York?
“I definitely think that’s a realistic goal,” Wiesner told 7DAYS. “If we see where Dubai came from over the last 20 to 25 years and the progress that has been made, I think if it continues on its current path and there is further investment in education and employment policies remain flexible then I definitely see an opportunity.”