Bankers used to follow a simple formula: borrow at 3, lend at 6 and be on the golf course by 3pm. Nowadays, a new mathematics prevails. Spend billions bailing out banks and little is left for other projects.
The UAE's banking sector rode out the financial crisis with the help of a Central Bank cash injection of Dh50 billion (US$13.61bn) in September 2008, followed a month later by a blanket guarantee of deposits and Dh70bn of emergency loans from the Ministry of Finance.
The problem did not arise from overly complex financial instruments, as in the West, but simply from bad business sense.
Banks provided mortgages of as much as 95 per cent of a property's value, feeding a housing bubble that hammered public and private sector alike when boom turned to bust - culminating in crisis at Nakheel.
Two years on, with banks still burdened by bad debt, Central Bank regulation of mortgage lending and a federal credit bureau to assess borrowers' creditworthiness remain works in progress.
The creation of the UAE's Public Debt Management Office to oversee government bond issuances is a good first step. But improved corporate governance and heightened levels of disclosure are a must if Dubai's mistakes are not to be repeated.
But fixing the banking sector must be a priority to prevent costly bank bailouts from becoming a repeat occurrence. While the UAE has not experienced the austerity seen in Europe, Abu Dhabi will have to wait a little longer for its aspirations as a financial hub in the region to become reality as budgets become ever more stretched.