Saturday, April 25, 2009


Here's a cute joke going the rounds in the Persian Gulf that shows the difference among the Gulf Arab states. I've added my analysis to explain what it all means.

DUBAI SYSTEM: You have two cows. You create a website for them and advertise. You create a Cow City for them. You sell Off their milk before the cows have even been milked to both legitimate and shady investors who hope to sell the non-existent milk for a 100% profit in two years time. You bring Tiger Woods to milk the Cows first to attract attention.

Analysis: The strength of Dubai (one of the states that make up the United Arab Emirates' federation) is that it has a strong entrepreneurial and public relations’ sense but its weakness is the speculative nature of its economy which is now starting to look like a fragile bubble.

BAHRAIN SYSTEM: You have two cows. Some high government official steals one, milks it, sells the milk and pockets the profit. The government tells you there is just one cow and not enough milk for the people. The people riot and scream death to the government and carry Iranian flags. The Parliament, after thinking for 11 months, decides to employ ten Bahrainis to milk the cow at the same time to cut back on unemployment.A

Analysis: There's a lot of corruption and a schism--a potential source of future political unrest that is sometimes exploited by Iran which supports the Shia--between a small Sunni Muslim ruling elite and a largely Shia Muslim population conducive to Iranian influence. The regime is, however, relatively effective (at least so far) in managing to control the Shia majority.

KUWAIT SYSTEM: They do not have cows. Milk is imported since no locals can or would milk a cow.

Analysis: Kuwait does well but is very much a rentier economy, not even trying very hard to diversify from its energy resources’ base.

OMAN SYSTEM: You have two cows. After a public speech declaring cow milking a bold new initiative you create a government commissionin charge of cow milking. You first spend a year doing nothing, then 1 year on planning to milk them properly and safely, another one year to get the proper ministry approval to milk them. By the time you actually get around to milking the cows, the cows are dead.

Analysis: Though successful in preserving stability, Oman is more bureaucratic and also less prone to change. In addition, it has more limited energy resources and they are likely to run out faster than those of the other countries.

QATAR SYSTEM: You have two cows. They've been sitting there for decades and no one realizes that cows can produce milk. You see what Dubai is doing; you go crazy and start milking as fast as you can. Then you realize no one wants the milk.

Analysis: Qatar tried to imitate Dubai a bit too late. The market niche was filled and the world economy soon turned downward.

SAUDI SYSTEM: Since milking the cow involves nipples the government decides to ban all cows in public. The only method to milk a cow is to have a cow on one side of the curtain and the guy milking the cow on the other.

Analysis: The Saudi interpretation of strict Wahabi Islam makes it more puritanical (an interesting mixed metaphor in religious terms!) than the others, though the Saudis do very well economically in the end.

1 comment:

  1. The Swedish translation at


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