ME PoV Fall 2018 issue


About this issue

The technology, stupid?

When James Carville, Bill Clinton’s campaign strategist, coined the phrase “The economy, stupid” as one of the key issues to focus on during the latter’s run for president, he probably did not realize that what was intended for an internal audience would become the de facto campaign slogan for the successful presidential bid.

The 1992 campaign used the then prevailing recession to unseat George Bush Sr. Twenty-four years later, another prevailing recession triggered by the 2008 market collapse, was again advantageously used to cause major political upsets in both Europe and the United States. But here’s the thing: Have voters missed the point?

Some may think that voters, be it during the Brexit referendum or the Trump campaign, allowed talk of isolationism and protectionism to lure them into thinking they were safeguarding their jobs and their future. But although the 2016 campaigners were very vocal in citing the threats across the border and the sea, no one mentioned the threat growing right in their backyard. In the future, it is not immigrants who will be cashing in the pink slips, it will be the robots. Technology has become an all-pervasive part of our lives, an indispensable tool in our offices, our homes, our kitchens and even our bedrooms. This is not a threat. Progress is the normal course of human evolution. Sic semper erat, et sic semper erit, thus has it always been, and thus shall it ever be. Technology is not to be feared, it is to be understood and assimilated.

This issue of Middle east Point of View is replete with articles that showcase not what might be, but what is. From Emmanuel Durou and Gaurav Govil’s article about artificial intelligence (Rise of the creative robot: Machine Learning in Media,) through Tom Bullock’s article about data analytics and how they can help companies reach untapped value (Realizing untapped value through data analytics) and Nipun Srivastava’s article on blockchain, (Blockchain moves to the public sector,) the message is the same: technology is ubiquitous, embrace it or risk being left behind.

Maya Rafii and Hiba Said highlight how technology has affected human resources. In their article Walk the talk: What “good” looks like, they say: “Organizations now have a matrix structure with dispersed virtual teams, a flat hierarchy and a continuous need to shift team structures. These organizations also present different work models with smart technology solutions.” As such, they argue, in searching for optimal performance, leaders “who give more of their time to their people will create a long-term effect on their workforce and impact the entire client experience as well as the organization as a whole.”

In other articles (we at MEPOV pride ourselves on our inquisitiveness and versatility,) Uthman Al-Basri looks at the banking sector in the Middle East region and drivers for consolidation. Tighter liquidity, increased competition and other market forces, including digitization are spurring the need for consolidation, he writes in his article Banking—the case for consolidation, and adds: “Past mergers in the region have demonstrated the merits of tie-ups and borne fruitful results.”

In his article on growth Returning to high growth: do markets know best? Dr. Louis Hobeika, Professor of Economics at NDU Lebanon challenges “the idea dominating economic thought in the past few decades […] that the state should limit itself to setting the parameters in which the private sector can work, innovate and grow.” With growth numbers steadily decreasing over the last few decades, he argues that “we should invest in thinking big about new roles for everybody, including the state.”

In our last article, we turn our eyes to Iraq, a country “with proven reserves […] in excess of the entire proven reserves of the United States […] a projected US$5 trillion in Oil & Gas revenues between 2013 - 2035 [and] an urgent need for housing and other infrastructure projects.” As such, there are many opportunities and a huge potential for prospective investors, say Ayad Mirza and Bahaa Arnouk, who outline the various business models international companies are adopting to invest in Iraq in their article Call me PPM: Iraq, a prominent potential market.

At the Middle East Point of View, we aspire to provoke thought and discussion. We hope that you will find much to debate in this issue. There is much that technology can and will replace in the future, but for now, the nature of knowledge and existence remain strictly human attributes.


Rise of the creative robot

As machine learning (ML) paves the way to becoming a game changer in the global economy, we expect the media sector to accelerate its investment in ML solutions to become part of this technological disruption.

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Realizing untapped value through data analytics

Middle East market evidence shows a general trend of a decrease in business value, presenting management and business owners with an opportunity to challenge the current norms. Strong data analytics combined with an action plan focused on value creation can enhance business value through a range of situations, whether in support of a proposed transaction, a transformation program, or to capitalize on a turnaround opportunity.

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Returning to high growth

The high economic growth rates experienced by most countries following the Second World War have not only slowed down in the last couple of decades, but the world has been undergoing serious crises recurring every ten years on average, the most serious of which has been the great recession starting in 2008 and from which the world has scarcely recovered. NDU economics professor Dr. Louis Hobeika argues that, in returning to high growth rates, we should invest in thinking big about new roles for everybody, including the state. We are living in an important and precious period that we should not waste.

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Walk the talk

Reinventing performance management is undoubtedly one of the hottest trends in business circles and perhaps one of the most pressing issues on board agendas. It is a topic keeping leaders up at night, or at least it should be. Statistics show that 79 percent of executives rate redesigning performance management a high priority. 

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Blockchain moves to the public sector

From financial services to retail, market participants are developing blockchain use cases to maximize the potential benefits of the technology on a large scale. The public sector, too, has taken a keen interest. From Australia to Canada via Dubai, governments and regulators have launched blockchain initiatives to enhance understanding, set standards and promote its use to achieve a vision where multilateral agencies interact with each other in a safe, and secure environment, to facilitate seamless economic transactions for the benefit of their citizens. 

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Banking – The case for consolidation

Banks across the Middle East region are facing the pressure of tighter liquidity and increasing competition amidst a more challenging macroeconomic backdrop. These pressures are amplified in countries where public sector deposits have been withdrawn to shore up government finances weakened by lower oil prices. Set against recalibrated government budgets and higher compliance cost, revenue growth for the banking sector has been subdued and some banks lack the scale to compete effectively, leading to calls for consolidation.

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Call me PPM

With an urgent need for housing and other infrastructure projects, we look at the various business models international companies are adopting to invest in Iraq.

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