The Blog

... It's a matter of perception between the "casa" and the "caseta"

Posted on December 2, 2013 at 4:30 PM

The economic crisis, which turned repellant between 2007 and 2008, did not only provoke the collapse of large financial institutions and the bailout of renown banks by national governments, but rather stood as a ravening scourge threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of citizens across the globe. While member states in the European Union (EU), such as Greece, Italy, and Portugal, are still looking for the appropriate economic recovery plan to cover their horrendous debts, newly developed economies, such as the BRIC countries, benefited grotesquely from the wrecked markets in Europe and North America.


Aden, 02 December 2014


Although the US stock-market fallouts, which emerged to the public with the Occupy Wall Street movement firstly launched from Zuccotti Park in New York on 17 September 2011, warned from devastative spillover into most market niches around the globe, the European financial debt crisis was the one to catch my attention since the Irish government official acknowledged, on September 2008, entering into a recession phase after the soaring unemployment rate followed, in 2009, by a drastic chute of the Irish Stock Exchange (ISEQ) index.


In addition to being stemmed from a twofold public financial management and domestic political crisis, the downturn in Europe bore a unique thrill that engaged the world into a never-ending debate over how far can the EU stand defragmented facing such economic spiral. The Greek public-debt crisis, which was worsened via economic structural weaknesses and decade-long high structural deficits and debt-to-GDP levels on public accounts, appeared as the closest towards a membership withdrawal scenario from the EU especially after the failure of Athen to abide by its promises regarding bailout plans.


Amid this hazy, yet awkwardly impressive, financial public-debt mess, Spain managed to pull out of the recession phase under its unpopular Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, although it still has a long journey out of the whole crisis brawl. Moving out of the European continent, another remarkable performance can be attributed to the Lebanese banking sector, which remain intact throughout the crisis years despite the few ups and downs mostly linked to the volatile politico-security situation in the region.


For a reason that remains unclear for myself, I had planned to spend my recent holidays in Barcelona; a decision mostly reinforced by a mesmerising sentiment towards Gaudi architectural masterpieces but also pushed forward by a preconception about lifestyle similarities between Beirut and the Spanish seaside cosmopolitan city. Indeed, the six-year Spanish economic crisis portrayed an urban landscape bounded by a dilapidated infrastructure, regular power cuts could have been an option, and an overall clumsy public comportment. What else could explain the high pickpocketing risks in Barcelona?


By the end of my second day in the Catalonian city, I started to realise that my prejudice was completely out of tune. The only few oriental influences that can still be detected are found in the Spaniards' dialect, the peoples' facial traits, and the names of some streets and statues. Notwithstanding the public outcry at the government's poor performance in relinquishing the impact of the financial crisis, no lousy routes, opportunistic taxi drivers, power and internet outage, or double billing to turn one's holidays into an uncomfortable experience.


On the third day, I remained unconvinced about the fallacies of my immature judgement. Henceforth, I decide to hit the shopping areas where a recession could mostly be sensitised. Roaming one outlet after another, I turned more conscious about the gap between a Lebanese and a Spanish business approach. As example, a shop in Downtown Beirut must be spacious, appealing - which means luxurious in Lebanese standards - and exhibiting high scale items. In contrast, downtown Barcelona still preserves its old "passéig" and provides visitors with more choices - meaning an increased number of less spacious stores, covering all budgets. The most striking revelation was when I was shown a plane steward academy contained in a four by four locale.


Such derailed business approach is imposing high deficit costs on the Lebanese market in general. The refurbishing of an entire neighbourhood to fit the upscale taste of an exclusive consumers' clientele may have been a favourable strategy in the 1990s when Lebanon was receiving a considerable number of wealthy Gulf and Arab tourists and visitors all year round. However, the evolvement of tourism trends and tourists tastes, accompanied by augmented insecurities and regional political deadlocks, had pushed a meaningful number of regional wealthy visitors to change plans and head towards other destinations.


In parallel, the expenditure power of the Lebanese expatriate communities, mainly those working in the Gulf area, has been significantly reduced due to the expensive living cost overseas and the minimal "gold" salary packages available in the employment market of the MENA region. Accordingly, local shopping hubs are required to cover all pockets' size if they are to insure a steady turnover. Meanwhile, selling prices can not be amended without being induced into a wide-scale new market strategies where exhibition space and running costs are coherent with the market demands and purchasing power.

Categories: I Think ...

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