The election of Donald Trump as the next president of the US has caused a ripple or two in world political and economic markets. As I discussed about Brexit, such knee-jerk responses create opportunities.
For example, Mr Trump’s promise to ban all Muslims from America would, one might think, cause stock prices in the travel and hospitality sector to drop seeing as Muslims comprise one quarter of the world’s population. In such a case the correct response would be to short these stocks. But that is the sucker’s play because this equity trade assumes that the American travel and hospitality sector cares about its clients and provides them with some form of quality service levels. Can you see the problem here? I wonder if that is where UAE bankers go to train.
The cynics among you might think that I forced that example to take a swipe at our wonderful bankers. So let me use another example, one used by nearly every Republican presidential hopeful – the promise to make America independent of Middle East oil. There are some of Mr Trump’s supporters who are greatly interested in such an outcome. With the massive advances in shale oil extraction technology, America has shown that it can be self-sufficient in terms of oil. The price of oil just has to be around US$80 per barrel. So if these people did want to be independent of Middle East oil then their patriotism would outweigh their capitalism and they would pay double the price at the pump so that they could be independent. Are they? Of course not. They are more greedy than they are patriotic. Capitalism beats politics every time in the real world. However, we can all play make-believe.
Indulge me then when I say I was shocked not to read a single story last week in which the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority banned Skype or blamed Etisalat and du for the absence of Skype in the country.
Speaking of Etisalat, my carrier, I think that we all know that the shortest measure of time has been assumed to be the time between when a traffic light goes green and when the first horn is honked. There have, however, been whispers of an even shorter time, a temporal equivalent of the Higgs boson. It is the new algorithm that Etisalat uses between the moment that your bill is due and when it sends you a message reminding you to pay. Remember that I am an investor and could have conflicts of interest. I will not, however, throw you in jail without a hearing in front of a judge.
To Etisalat’s credit it has not resorted to the use of extrajudicial incarceration of insolvent people to make them pay, a tactic that is currently employed by banks. But the Emirates Banking Society, according to people with no knowledge of the situation whatsoever, has been encouraged by the new bankruptcy law which makes the banks look good while still allowing them to chuck people in jail wholesale. The non-existent whistle-blowers have leaked that the banks are considering charging for air and they have formed the Social Air Tax Amortization Network to develop this idea.
I asked an expert about building an Islamic economy given such unethical behaviour. He began weeping. I heard faint whispers of “the horror, the horror.” Joseph Conrad’s estate, having initially demanded a royalty, has retracted its demands and offered, free of charge, the rights to Heart of Darkness II: Rise of the Soulless Banks.
Speaking of soulless institutions, Wall Street watchers have telepathically been in touch to alert me to the sale by Saudi Arabia of $23 billion of US Treasuries, apparently to meet an interim invoice by McKinsey. Sources have denied that McKinsey demanded the firing of 2 million Saudi citizens for the government to avoid penalty interest and are emphatic that there has been no discussion of selling said Saudi citizens into slavery in return for a discount on the invoice.
The Financial Times recently reported that the world was going to sanction the UAE because the free zones are not cooperating on tax reporting. Come on everyone, a round of applause please for the free zones joining the banks and the TRA in making our lives more difficult. That sort of dedication and hard work simply does not grow on trees.
But fear not. There is the whisper of a whisper that a new ministry is being created to battle all of these issues and more and bring our economy back to where it was. Unsubstantiated, and possibly fabricated, intel points to a fantastic Ministry of Silly Walks. Apparently no negotiations are taking place with that master of silly walks John Cleese. A pity. One does like a good laugh as the ship sinks. At least a chuckle.
All of the above is basically complete fiction. If you take a moment and think about it you will realise how saddening that statement is. Try not to weep. The banks might throw you in jail.
This article was originally published in The National.