It's Time U.S. Widened Its Narrow View About Mideast Investment
By ZIAD ABDELNOUR
With skyrocketing gasoline prices and the incessant images of death and destruction in the Middle East, negative stereotypes have caused U.S. business people to hesitate to seek out opportunities in the Middle East or attract capital from that part of the world.
The most ironic part of it is the total ignorance of economic theory on the part of the journalists who propagate the stereotype of the Middle East at large as the hotbed of extremism, radicalism, Islamism and terrorism and nothing else.
But they're missing a lot. It shouldn't just be about politics and ideology, but about business as well.
Most business leaders in the Arab world are Western-educated and understand that the only way to retain wealth is to put it to work to create more wealth.
They know that the oilfields are a finite resource that will someday be depleted, and they are eager to diversify their economies all over the world.
Given our narrow perspective on the Middle East at large, we are losing the opportunity to attract the vast surpluses of Arab money at the expense of Asia, Europe and even Africa. With a more than $16 trillion deficit, we need new sources of investment.
The pro-business Arabs want what everyone wants:
Respect from our professional peers around the world.
Yet the G-8 has not a single Middle Eastern country included in its ranks, but has Russia as a member. This can be construed only as an insult to the people of that region.
What better way to confer respect than to do business with them, trade with them and give them a seat at the table of international economic power?
The creation of a democratic Middle East, economically linked to the U.S., serves the strategic interests of both. Demonizing the Middle East doesn't accomplish much and is frankly stupid.
Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia is a role model for many deal makers worldwide, but he is just one of an increasing group of Arab financiers and operators emerging throughout the globe.
On the institutional front, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority manages in excess of $850 billion, more than the top 50 U.S. private equity funds combined.
America, a traditional home for parking petrodollars, is in fact falling out of favor. Investors are counting the increased security concerns and risk that assets in the U.S. could be targeted since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
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