Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 23 November 2014

Buzzwords flourish in brave new world of the Gulf  

Arab autocrats cling to their thrones with the complicity of secret policemen, but the Gulf states are fighting off the revolutionary winds with cliches. 

 In a recent energy conference in Doha, delegates exchanged cynical glances when a Qatari official repeatedly spoke about his country’s “strategic vision”.  Not just a vision, mark you, but a ‘strategic’ vision. 

As the Algerian journalist Akram Belkaid points out, Anglo-Saxon advisers have sold the ‘vision’ idea to rival monarchs whose skyscrapers (Qatar/Kuwait), new cities (Saudi Arabia) , ports (Oman), economic diversification (Dubai/Abu Dhabi), airlines (Emirates, Etihad, Qatar Airways), metros and museums are now an Arab Hadrian’s Wall against insurgent barbarism.

All talk is now of “projects” – worth billions rather than millions – which are “world class” in standard, sprouting amid “emerging markets” which constitute new “hubs” in the region.  Belkaid inevitably identifies the language of these “global” hubs – whose local royal flunkies dub themselves “global press officer” on their visiting cards – as English (the language of higher education and journalism in the Gulf);  thus international finance will understand how well the Gulf States nurture a “strong economy” with “sustainable development” and “human capital”.

Women in the region are to be “empowered” – though not to the point of emancipation in a patriarchal society – while “labour nationalisation” will put an end to foreign workers (who may be subject to “deportation”, a less pleasant and thus less useful word).  “Leisure” is, by the same token, a happier word than “luxury” – ‘leisure’ can be “enjoyed” – and “cultural heritage” must replace “modernity”. 

It’s all about “nation building”.  This may be hard to accept amid the blood of Syrians, Egyptians, Tunisians, Libyans – even Algerians – but who believes now that the Gulf is really part of the Middle East?

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