Bankers yearn for stability after the Arab Spring
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Bankers yearn for stability after the Arab Spring

It seems unlikely new political freedoms in the Middle East could bring greater economic empowerment. In the short term investors are being put off by the volatility. Banks are reassessing their positions. Dominic O’Neill reports.

FINANCIERS IN THE Middle East often appear extraordinarily sanguine about the political and economic cataclysms their region is experiencing. "I’ve never felt more invigorated by the opportunities in the region than I do today," says Arif Naqvi, chief executive of Abraaj Capital, a Dubai-based private equity firm with about $6 billion in assets under management. People like Naqvi say mass protests and the fall of corrupt and authoritarian governments could help unleash pent-up entrepreneurialism – helping these youthful and populous nations fulfil their potential.

"All this didn’t start out with the requirement for political freedom," says Naqvi, pointing to the Tunisian university graduate who set off the initial wave of protests. Mohammed Bouazizi set himself alight when officials confiscated the fruit and vegetables he was selling on the street. Bouazizi was unable to find a job in the formal sector, and his wares were taken apparently because he lacked an official permit.

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