Sunday, December 01, 2013

But it looks cool from the top of the Burj Khalifa

Tom Friedman is in the Gulf. He writes about it in his Sunday New York Times column. The first part is not bad, noting the expanding space for social media in the Gulf, but not mentioning the limits for criticism of the ruler or perceived blasphemy. He goes astray in the 2nd part, apparently lost in the haze of presentations by government officials and an eagerness to say something nice about his hosts. Hence ..

in Dubai, the government has set a strategy for 2021,

There is no particular Dubai strategy for 2021. That's for the federal government. Now it's an understandable mistake because the same Sheikh Mohammed that he writes about favourably as ruler of Dubai is also PM and VP of the UAE, but of course if you start asking why one man has all those titles, you're getting more into the politics of the UAE than he might want.

and each of the 46 ministries and regulatory agencies has three-year Key Performance Indicators, or K.P.I.’s, they have to fulfill to get there, ranging from improving the success of Dubai 15-year-olds in global science, math and reading exams to making it even easier to start a new business. All 3,600 K.P.I.’s are loaded on an iPad dashboard that the ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, follows each week.

You might note here that somewhere along the way, the meaning of the word "Key" has been lost, since a city-state of around 2 million people somehow needs 3600 of them. The most likely explanation is that whatever consulting firm came up with them was being paid by the indicator.

Again, this is not about democracy. It’s about leaders feeling the need to earn their legitimacy. But when one leader does it, others feel the pressure to copy. 

Which of course raises the question of what they would copy.

There is also a mistake which reveals the perils of pop-in journalism. He attributes a cartoon to the "Saudi newspaper" Al Sharq al Awsat. That pan-Arab paper is in London. The online version correctly attributes the cartoon to al Sharq.