United Arab Emirates

Education policymakers worldwide often make a pilgrimage of sorts to Finland and Singapore to learn about their high performing education systems. These states consistently do well in PISA tests, which are organised by the OECD every three years to measure and compare the competencies of 15-year-olds worldwide. There is no doubt that their achievements are impressive, but there is more to be said for examining places that are rapidly improving rather than those that are already highly effective. This week, CfBT Education Trust published a report exploring school reform in five world cities including three in emerging markets, where there has been rapid improvement in recent years.

Despite enormous diversity, the report has identified seven common trends that link educational success in each of these places. Strong leadership, commitment to reform and collaboration between schools are among the factors that have driven up standards. These cities have used education to break the link between poverty and attainment in a way that has not be done before and which could have profound implications for social mobility and their social and economic structures. Innovation and creativity have set new standards in these cities which could be applied in emerging markets across the world. Read more

By Mohammad Al Tuwaijri, HSBC

Over the last half century, the Middle East has been a cornerstone in South Korea’s rapid economic development, or what has become known as the ‘miracle on the Han river’ – a reference to the waterway that carves its way through Seoul.

Korean expertise in fields such as transportation, construction and technology can help the Middle East accelerate towards a future beyond oil. The relationship has deep historical roots. Read more

By Philippe Dauba-Pantanacce, Standard Chartered

The news that Dubai has overtaken London Heathrow as the world’s busiest international airport is a timely reminder that not all Middle East economies are dependent on energy as a mainstay of growth and job creation.

With oil prices plunging 60 per cent, much attention is justifiably focused on the Middle East’s traditional dependence on hydrocarbons. But it is easy to overlook a few oases of economic activity that are not only uncorrelated with oil but also starting to achieve meaningful, critical economic mass. Read more

Emirates NBD, Dubai’s biggest bank, reported a 30 per cent increase in net profit in the first half as the emirate’s economy grows amid regional unrest.

But its main shareholder, the indebted Dubai government, continues to raid its piggy bank. In the past six months, Dubai borrowed an extra Dh7bn from the lender, in which it holds a 55.6 per cent stake, extending its overdraft to Dh98.6bn ($26.8bn.) Read more

Young Arabs are increasingly turning their backs on cushy public sector jobs in favour of working for private companies and starting their own businesses, a survey in 16 countries has found.

There has also been an erosion in optimism that the “Arab spring” uprisings in recent years against authoritarian governments across the region will translate into better lives for ordinary people, the survey found. Read more

The competitition to attract financial business in the Gulf is hotting up.

Dubai’s financial centre says it will slash telecommunications rates as it seeks to sustain growth amid increasing competition from neighbours such as Abu Dhabi, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

The DIFC is set this year to roll out a technology transit zone within its data centre, offering prices that can compete with London and other western cities to ease costs for trading desks and asset managers. Read more

Socially-conservative Sharjah, the third largest economy in the United Arab Emirates, is showing a bit of leg – financially speaking.

The emirate bans alcohol and enforces a modest dress code, marking Sharjah out from its flashier neighbour, bling-tastic tourist magnet Dubai. But the education- and culture-focused emirate has stepped out, opening its books to credit agencies. Paving the way for a potential sovereign bond, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s on Wednesday issued it long-term sovereign credit ratings of A and A3, respectively. Read more

By Georges Elhedery of HSBC

For centuries, the Middle East provided obvious trade hubs for merchants as they travelled between the east and the west. This pattern is being repeated now, as air travel in emerging markets takes off. The focus of the airline industry is shifting eastwards and the Middle East’s prime location at the crossroads between Asia, Africa and Europe means it is once again an important gateway for travel.

The rapid economic growth of emerging markets such as China has led to an increase in wealth and created a growing middle class that is keen to see the world. Since 2007 air travel in emerging markets has risen by 55 per cent*, and this trend is expected to continue. Read more

Majid Al Futtaim, the malls operator that brought an indoor ski slope to Dubai, is seeking to double revenues over the next five years by bringing Carrefour markets and mega-malls to more countries across the broader region.

Having expanded across 12 countries in the Middle East, North Africa and central Asia, the retailing giant is scouting four out of the 14 sub-Saharan African countries for which it holds Carrefour franchisee rights. Read more

Dubai may be celebrating getting the 2020 World Expo, but is it a poisoned chalice?

After the crash of 2008 and subsequent sovereign debt crisis, surely the Expo is a welcome boost? As Simeon Kerr reports for the FT, “Dubai’s commercial sector anticipates it will give an estimated €28.8bn economic boost and create some 277,000 jobs.” What’s not to like?

Well, some analysts are not quite so positive. Read more

Transparency International’s latest report on emerging markets companies has slammed Chinese companies for their lax reporting standards, comparing them unfavourably with the relatively more open Indian corporate scene.

Faring little better than their Chinese counterparts were a handful of Middle Eastern companies included in the report. Read more

It hasn’t taken long for the recovery in Middle Eastern markets to persuade once-shy companies that now could be the time to list.

The announcement this week that the Bank of London and The Middle East would list on NasdaqDubai, which has just two actively traded stocks, signalled the first new listing in Dubai in nearly five years. Read more

As beyondbrics reported on Tuesday, index provider MSCI has rejigged its emerging market classifications. The headline grabber is that Greece has been put into the emerging market group. Up from frontier to emerging status come the UAE and Qatar. Morocco was relegated back to the frontier group.

It’s embarrassing for Greece and an overdue vote for the UAE and Qatar. But how much of a difference will it make? Potentially, quite a lot, actually. Read more

Abu Dhabi , Rocco Forte HotelDelays to ambitious tourist developments in the UAE capital city have left hospitality groups battling with serious oversupply, writes Camilla HallRead more

It’s been a long time coming. After putting Greece on review for a possible demotion to emerging markets status last year, MSCI went ahead and made it official on Tuesday.

In its annual review of country classification, MSCI removed Greece from its developed markets index and reclassified it as an emerging market. The Athens Stock Exchange has shed nearly 83 per cent of its value since 2008. Read more

Real Madrid and Barcelona are known for their annual gladiatorial contest for Spanish football supremacy.

Now the two clubs have become pawns in a proxy war among Middle Eastern airlines for global recognition. Read more

The Gulf is set for economic growth and accumulation of financial reserves in 2013 says the Institute of International Finance.

Sound familiar? Well that’s because most macroeconomic forecasts make similarly rosy forecasts for the oil-rich region. But the IIF, the world bankers’ club, warns that the good times may not last – and the region’s governments need to pursue economic reform before the outlook changes. Read more

Dubai is hoping to double its number of tourists to 20m by the end of the decade as it attracts visitors from new markets and cultivates return guests to the seventh most popular travel destination in the world, write Simeon Kerr and Camilla Hall.

The city’s sun, sea and shopping offering has been central to Dubai’s economic revival since its debilitating debt crisis in 2009, helped by its haven status since the Arab revolutions. Read more

Dubai is renowned for its indoor ski-slope, boasting a black run for experienced skiers and a parcel of penguins for the kids. Ski Dubai is one of the emirate’s biggest attractions, particularly popular with tourists from the parched Gulf.

But its upstart neighbour, Ras al-Khaimah, says it plans to go one better: building a winter resort in its craggy mountains that will offer sweeping open-air runs. Read more

Companies listed on exchanges in the United Arab Emirates are failing to show potential investors that their corporate governance policies are stringent enough for a new era of compliance, according to a study, reports Simeon Kerr.

The Red Flag Group, a compliance consultancy, surveyed publicly available information issued by listed groups in the UAE, ranking them on eight metrics related to corporate governance, such as the publication of codes of conduct and the identification of their compliance officers. Read more