Dubai is not for everyone. The glittering metropolis, which erupts out of the desert, captures much that is good and bad about humanity in a few square miles.
On the good side, this extraordinary trading hub, reveals what human ambition can achieve. As it waves its two diamond-encrusted, air-conditioned fingers to Mother Nature, a city where none should be, Dubai stands testament to what can be done through sheer force of will and extraordinary urban vision.
On the other hand, Dubai’s legions of mostly Asian labourers, who toil away under the searing heat, remind us again of the world’s unacceptable inequalities and how – irrespective of the huge strides made in recent years – the lottery of location or the accident of birth, dictate our time on this Earth. The city’s success is partly a product of deeply problematic bonded labour.
Two years ago, my son spent half his transition year in the Vedado area of Havana, a few miles west of Havana’s extraordinary old city. Havana is a vibrant city. There might not be a more exciting place to learn Spanish – and the competition is stiff. The Spanish-speaking world hosts some of the most pulsating cities on Earth.
He stayed with a Cuban family, immersed in the fascinating psychodrama that is everyday life on that island.
When I went to visit, I was delighted to encounter himself and his mate haggling with the local cab drivers over fares, gesticulating wildly, half theatre/half commerce, in an accent that the locals told me was pure Havana.
Ireland’s population is surging, the fastest-growing in Europe, on target to hit five million citizens next year. Such burgeoning dynamism implies that our approach to planning and urbanisation needs to be revised.
The new reality promises all sorts of opportunities. For example, a rapidly rising population and, more significantly, large-scale increases in employment signal lower income taxes.
When your population rises, so does your tax base, and therefore income tax levels should fall, if we manage it properly. Conversely, as taxes fall and demand for housing rises, house prices are liable to increase unless we manage the economy better than we do at the moment.
One of the most difficult questions for any parent is: “What should I do in the future?” When your child asks you what is a good job, can we honestly say we have any idea?
Many jobs that pay well now, such as the highly sought-after data analyst, didn’t exist 10 years ago. What hope have we, mere parents, of predicting the future jobs market? Things are changing so quickly, driven by technology. Consequently, even making a stab at what might be vogue in five years is highly speculative.
The best we can do is look at big trends that are emerging all over the world.
There is something deeply elemental about being woken up by streaks of forked lightning illuminating the darkness in electric blue followed almost immediately by booming claps of thunder as a violent Adriatic storm passes just over the roof.
The Romans understood the power of the elements and observed that, in mid-August, the searing heat and soaring temperatures of the previous weeks tended to clash with colder weather coming in from the north or west, leading to dramatic electric storms. They took this to be a sign from the gods that one season was over and another starting.
Emperor Augustus named the 15th of August Feriae Augusti or the festival of Augustus, falling in the middle of the most significant month in the year, which naturally took the Emperor’s name. Today all Italia still closes on August 15th or Ferragosto, the modern Italian version of the Latin name.
This week, the column will focus on global economic policy and why central banks – still the most powerful economic institutions in the world – don’t understand how disruptive technology is changing the way our world works.
What if they are stuck in a late 20th-century mindset not sufficiently clued in to the impact of new technology and therefore, as the world worries about an impending recession, they are like old generals, fighting the last war not the new one?
This week saw a flurry of activity from the world’s central bankers. From the US to New Zealand, Thailand and India, interest rates were slashed to all-time lows. Why the hyperactivity now? What they are up to?