Monday, December 18, 2006

The Economist

...used to be my absolute favorite magazine. In Lebanon, I believe about 200 Economist publications wait patiently for me in one of my storage areas. Back in the day, as I stashed them away, I told myself that maybe 10 years down the road I'd pick them up again and get a glimpse into my past.

Today, however, is a different story. I read the economist at work because I must. The magazine, quite frankly has become too pedantic for my taste. Too much policy recommendations... too little analysis. Frankly, I think it is committing hubris - what sort of contributions, for example, can a magazine called The Economist make to enriching the debate on the Palestine-Israeli conflict or the genocide in Darfur?

Sometimes however, the magazine gets it right - and usually, it does so when it sticks to subjects close to its "core," if you will. Last week's edition contained two quintessential examples of such brilliance: their cover page, and a commentary about Dubai's stock exchange. Here's the cover page:

Of course, some would argue that this image has more to do with international relations or geopolitics than economics - but don't tell the Economist's editors that, because they probably won't let you escape from their lecturing until they convince you otherwise. Whatever the case, I just love this cover, and it deserves recognition!

The other coup de grace pulled by this edition of the Economist pertains to Dubai's stock exchange, and why it has experienced lack-luster performance despite its declared ambitions to grow into a truly global capital market. On that particular issue, the Economist writes,

To win a place in the top club of financial centres, Dubai must attract not just providers of capital but users, too. The bankers need companies that want to sell their shares and bonds in the region; fund managers want local companies to invest in; and private-equity partners need a pipeline of enticing ventures and the prospect of listing their companies after a few years. Dubai has sought to profit from the unprecedented mobility of markets, but without local demand for capital, that same mobility will start to count against it.

The trouble is that few local companies are ready for Dubai's capital markets. The Arab world includes plenty of sophisticated large investors but few modern companies. Long ago, the region's failure to develop joint-stock companies was one reason why it fell behind the West. Even today, financial transparency is weak and accounting is erratic. Most enterprises are family owned and, since they operate in protected markets, have no great need to raise capital, especially if it means exposing themselves to greater scrutiny.

18 comments:

Yahya said...

In fairness, coverage of the Middle East has never been the Economist's strength. It is much better on India and Asia generally. Even its news on the US shows a distinctive right-wing slant.

But I don't know of any other newsweekly that is better. If you do, please tell me and I will subscribe.

Yahya

Fahad said...

You appear to have known The Economist for a while, and you even say it was your "absolute favorite."

It is nonsensical for you then to ask "what can a magazine called the economist" contribute to political issues. The name of the publication, as indicated by its online profile, has always been confusing to people who don't read it. This, coupled with the absence of writers' names and the economist's insistence on calling itself a newspaper, adds to the uniqueness of the brand.

The economist does a remarkable job of presenting the facts on political issues around the world, and it does so in admirable detail. The publication then takes a certain stance on the issue, but also leaves you with all you need to come to your own conclusion on the situation. But it forces you to think on the issue, and that is a feat.

Regarding commentary on Palestine-Israel or Darfur--I have the view (and many will agree with me) that the economist has covered these issues with far greater clarity and detail than publications such as Time, Newsweek, etc. And the wry and humorous style of the economist adds to the pleasure of reading something of immense quality.

If you go to their website and look at their covers for the past, I reckon 90 percent of those will relate to political and human issues and the rest economics and business. Let me reiterate again, this is as good an international affairs publication as you'll get. They describe themselves as extreme-centrist, but usually they don’t care about right-wing or left-wing. Logic and a well-argued case dictate to them what position to take on an issue.

Sorry for writing so much, but it's sad to see someone, while praising the economist, go on to mischaracterize it. Anyway, I would ask everyone to go to their website and check out their past covers. Those covers, and of course the amazing articles in past issues, are what made a 20-year old like me get hooked to this publication.

Now, every Thursday when the magazine is published online I read it cover to cover. It's a rush like no other! Let me go save some money so that I can subscribe for the print edition. CHEERS!

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The economic status of the middle east has been on some what of an upscale. We all can admit that the war is a bit helpful and twistedly hateful. Everything has a negative and positive side of life, but the one above works in his mysterious ways to make things happen for us. Whether its war today or war tomorrow, the world as we know it today is so corrupted that even the smartest man wont make sense anymore. It doesnt matter what people say anymore, its just a radical country and thats about it.

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