Newspaper Coverage
Media exacerbated effects of economic downturn
2010-04-17

The global media played a significant role in exacerbating the effects of the economic downturn by feeding into a cycle of ever-worsening economic confidence. The same applied to regional media in the UAE, with many corporate companies not equipped to handle the crisis from a communications perspective. This is according to Dr. Ahmed Samerai, Managing Director of the SAHARA Group, who addressed attendees at the American University of Sharjah's inaugural Alumni Business Forum
"Burying your head in the sand, particularly during a crisis, is never a good strategy. But with many companies ill-equipped to deal with a crisis of this magnitude, and with the media adding fuel to the fire, it got to the point where the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing.

"Witnessing the impact of the crisis from an internal corporate communications level, and realizing what the results nationally and internationally could be, was startling. It also highlighted the importance of having a crisis communications strategy, which not only enables companies to identify and analyze risks or threats and select and implement appropriate response techniques, but also to monitor the outcomes and modify the plan as needed. With the right strategy, it is not only possible to survive a recession, but to thrive during one."

Dr Samerai was speaking on the subject "How to Turn Pain into Gain: Succeeding in MENA during a Business Downturn". His presentation included issues such as the UAE's comparative advantage over other MENA countries in terms of production, the UAE's viability as a centre for ‘knowledge production' for the region, and the ideal educational formats that regional centers of learning could use to help the UAE transform into an information center for the region.

Looking at the economic perspective, Dr Samerai stated that the economic downturn has necessitated a renewed focus on investment into small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

"SMEs play a major part in the UAE's economic cycle, but have been largely neglected - based on ratio levels - by banks and regulatory authorities," he said.

"Instead of providing the initiatives to support this vital sector, banks are supporting large corporations - whose mismanagement, greed and egos are what fuelled the dire situation in the first place. As a result, many SMEs will have to spend the coming years fixing internal damages rather the than growing and adding value to UAE's economic growth."

He stressed that these wrongs could, however, be rectified through the introduction of legislation and governance in support of this vital sector. "By establishing appropriate legislations and regulations to govern the SME sector, and by encouraging financial institutions to invest in the sector, these businesses will be enabled to efficiently regulate their operations, in turn adding to the economic growth of the region."

Building upon its growing international reputation for business teaching, and reflecting its distinguished group of alumni, The American University of Sharjah (AUS) hosted its first business forum and career fair. The event - opened by His Excellency Sheikh Bin Ahmed Bin Sultan Al Qassimi, Chairman of the Sharjah Commerce and Tourism Development Authority - brought together some of the region's brightest minds and most innovative business thinkers for a series of panels, speeches and workshops on a variety of topics.