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Opinion

Finance: Dubai’s fast start fuels hope for 2021

If you want to see what a strong economic and financial recovery might look like in 2021, you’ll find it in Dubai.

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It is the second week of January and Café Bateel, located in the heart of Dubai’s financial district, is quietly buzzing.

Dressed-down bankers and investors, favouring a Miami Vice look heavy on pastel-coloured suit jackets and Jack Wills T-shirts, recline in wicker chairs, enjoying a coffee and occasional cigarette.

It is hot and sunny – the midday mercury hovers around 25°C – and while Europe navigates a second lockdown, Asia a bumpy return to growth and the US a (hopefully peaceful) transition of presidential power, the Middle East’s main financial hub is most definitely open for business.

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“Yesterday, I had three meetings with clients who are not Dubai-based,” says a regional head of investment banking over a morning coffee at Bateel. Two flew in from London, the other from Lagos.

There were other meetings, he adds: internal ones with colleagues who jetted in from various parts of Europe to soak up some winter rays.

Normality is a way off yet. On a scale of one to 10, the buzz in Bateel is about a six. Half the tables are empty, rising to two-thirds in the adjoining branches of Caffè Nero and Costa Coffee.

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