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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Anchorman rises to the challenge

A common market would boost Arab economies - but the region must heed lessons from the euro-zone crisis, warns CNN host John Defterios.
John Defterios presents CNN's new daily show, Global Exchange, from Abu Dhabi. "We can learn a lot of lessons from the euro-zone disaster," he says.
John Defterios presents CNN's new daily show, Global Exchange, from Abu Dhabi. "We can learn a lot of lessons from the euro-zone disaster," he says.

The euro-zone crisis offers a valuable lesson to the economies of the Arab world, says John Defterios, CNN's business news host.

Mr Defterios, who recently moved to the UAE to present a daily show from Abu Dhabi, believes the creation of a single market in the Middle East and North Africa would deliver a boost to the regional economy.

But the mistakes made in Europe must not be repeated in the Arab world, he warns.

"If the Arab region wants to embark on greater unification and greater integration, they should do so with the best global standards of economic governance," he says.

"I think we can learn a lot of lessons from the euro-zone disaster. The lesson we're seeing in 2011 is a mistake that was made in the lead-up to the euro, which was not putting the right rules in place for the single currency."

These errors included the acceptance of several southern European countries into the euro "without the correct governance", Mr Defterios says.

"Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal provided their own statistics to Brussels on their budget deficit. And it was a fundamental flaw in the creation of the single currency. It's a huge mistake that Europe made, and they're paying a horrible price."

Mr Defterios presents Global Exchange. The show, which he describes as the world's "first daily global emerging markets programme", is broadcast live from Abu Dhabi. The National asked him about the UAE's role as a potential "emerging market".

q&a

q Why did CNN choose Abu Dhabi as the home for an emerging markets show?

a The vantage point from Abu Dhabi is that you can also look at the interconnectedness of the West with the East. That's why we thought it was much better to do it from here than to try to do something from London, or New York, or even Shanghai.

q Why are the emerging markets important?

a Emerging markets today are growing at three times the rate of the developed world. You're looking at better than 6 per cent in the emerging markets today, vis-à-vis just over 2 per cent in the classic G7 countries [the US, Japan, Canada, Germany, Britain, France and Italy].

q Where do you see the UAE's place in that?

a Sitting on nearly 10 per cent of the world's oil reserves it's got the blessing of phenomenal sovereign wealth and development funds. Traditionally that money went West. What I think has changed dramatically is that the UAE, and the other investment partners that you see in the region, are looking for opportunities to tap into the growth of India, China, South East Asia and Africa.

q The UAE may be granted "emerging market" status. Is that more than just a label?

a If you join the "emerging market" status [club] it gives you much greater access to international pension and investment funds. The category of "frontier market" carries a certain risk that many pension and investment funds don't touch.

q Abu Dhabi Inc is restructuring; shedding jobs and delaying projects. Do you see that as prudence, or panic?

a Instead of slamming on the brakes, I think Abu Dhabi has done a very prudent thing and applied the brakes to slow down projects, not knowing what 2012 to 2014 is going to look like, not just domestically, but internationally. There are still huge question marks for 2012, where oil prices are going to be going.

q With what is happening in the euro zone, do you think a regional economic union is looking less likely?

a We should be looking at a real trade zone of at least 17 to 22 countries in the region. The currency is less important than lowering trade barriers and allowing the free movement of capital and people. This region needs to act more like a single market. It has been talking about it for years. And it has led to real challenges by not creating a single market. This region only gets 3 per cent of the world's foreign direct investment. This should be a place that is gathering 10 per cent if not more of global foreign direct investment.

q Tell us about Arabia 2.0, a segment on your new show.

a There was a wake-up call from the Arab Spring. We can't sit back and say 'that happened, and let's bump along the road and see what happens.' And Arabia 2.0 is something we are extremely dedicated to follow that progress: what's being done to create 100 million jobs over the next decade, which is the benchmark that has been set up by the UN Development Fund.

q CNN has an Arabic website. Are there any plans to launch an Arabic-language TV station?

a The CNN Arabic [website] has done extremely well. But there are no plans at this juncture to launch an Arabic channel.

q Who's top of your list as your "dream interviewee" from this region?

a I'd love to interview [Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces]. He doesn't talk a lot, and I think he'd be a very interesting person to interview.

q What would you ask him?

a Number one, how he's going to redefine economic development in the UAE. And how do we create a bigger, broader market in the Middle East, of 350 million to 400 million consumers, and create widespread development throughout the region.

q As a journalist covering the economy, how well do you think the media has covered the global downturn?

a What we saw in 2008-2009 was not a global economic crisis, it was a western-led financial crisis. And as a result, the western media in particular was always framing it as a global economic crisis, when in fact you still had growth of 3 to 4 per cent in the broader Middle East and North Africa, and growth of 7 to 9 per cent in the areas between India and China. If we didn't have the growth of the emerging markets, the crisis of 2008-2009 would have been a lot worse.

q Has CNN been censored since it launched in the region?

a There's never been one iota of intervention by anybody. And we've never ever had to have any sort of self-editing of any of the coverage that we've done.

 

bflanagan@thenational.ae