After 25 years of transformation, attention of the whole world has shifted to Dubai.
The utopian character of Dubai, it must be emphasized, is no mirage. Even more than Singapore or Texas, the city-state really is an apotheosis of neo-liberal values.
On the one hand, it provides investors with a comfortable, Western-style, property-rights regime, including freehold ownership, that is unique in the region. Included with the package is a broad tolerance of booze, recreational drugs, halter tops, and other foreign vices formally proscribed by Islamic law. (When expats extol Dubai’s unique “openness,” it is this freedom to carouse — not to organize unions or publish critical opinions — that they are usually praising.)
On the other hand, Dubai, together with its emirate neighbors, has achieved the state of the art in the disenfranchisement of labor. Trade unions, strikes, and agitators are illegal, and 99% of the private-sector workforce are easily deportable non-citizens. Indeed, the deep thinkers at the American Enterprise and Cato institutes must salivate when they contemplate the system of classes and entitlements in Dubai.
Can we achieve this kind of amazing transformation in Africa?