Is the financial crisis really over? Our regional media says the future is bright. As Professor Hubert Farnsworth would say, “Good news, everyone!”
But when you talk to business owners, friends, employees and ex-clients, the story is somewhat different. You get the feeling that the future is as black as Beirut at night during brutal electricity rationings.
Some of the quotes I heard lately, and these are their actual words:
We are not making money
Our budget is cut, yet again
I need plan B
I’m working on plan B
It’s a matter of time before we shut down
Our business has shut down
Our project is stalling
I’m gonna try Saudi
More layoffs in my company
I sent my CV everywhere
Screw the loans, I’m running away
We are accepting ridiculously low fees to survive
Our competition fee is still way lower than ours
That’s not good news at all!
Let’s assume the future is in fact bright. When will it be bright? When business are dead? When people are laid off and are overwhelmed with debt? When expats lose all their hard earned savings in stalled projects?
I had a rather depressing interesting conversation with one my of ex-clients. Over the past 12 months, their budget for PR has shrunk 80% and it is set to shrink even further. When the crisis started, they laid off a significant number of staff from their Middle East offices. The crisis is presumably over but the layoffs continue to take place.
The company my cousin works for, a US financial firm, recently shut down its operations in the Middle East. Like anyone didn’t see that happening in the financial sector.
In the world of regional PR, competition is very tough. The days of big PR budgets are long gone. I hear agencies are pitching competitive retainer fees to stay afloat; especially when the number of PR agencies is quickly replacing the number of construction cranes in Dubai.
In media, and according to a random tweet, a leading English publication in the UAE is cutting jobs. This follows the demise of Emirates Business 24-7’s print edition. But it’s not just print. Recently, I noticed that two regional online publications have stopped updating their sites. Their last piece of news was over a month ago. I asked the editor of one of them and he confirmed that the publication is kaput. If online is not doing well, what hope is there for print?
My sabbatical is almost over and the above is not comforting. Time to follow the steps of the soon-to-be-unemployed and think of plan B.
I appreciate that our media is trying to give us a glimpse of hope but a reality check, every now and then, is highly needed.
Good luck to all.