The Dubai Nightmare

Once a booming mideast Las Vegas, Dubai is struggling amid the economic downturn. As a result, bills are going unpaid. By some estimates, UK engineers and architects are owed more than $652 million. One architect breaks his silence on the issue.

Architect David Marks and his firm Marks Barfield had been working on the Dubai Arts District for developers Abyaar, but has struggled to receive payment for his firm's work.

"For Abyaar, Marks Barfield created a design dominated by landscaping and parks that drew inspiration from pebbles and waves. Unfortunately, five months after the practice started work, Dubai turned into the casino where everybody loses.

David Marks, the co-founder of the firm, says Abyaar has not paid its invoices for the past 15 months. The present arrears are about £700,000, or 30% of Marks Barfield's 2008 turnover, and the situation has reached crisis point. He is not suffering alone. The Association of Consulting Engineers (ACE) estimates that UK engineers are owed a total of £400m by clients in the Middle East, who are suffering severely from the global downturn, and most analysts think this is a fraction of the true figure."

Thanks to ArchNewsNow

Full Story: My Dubai hell: David Marks breaks the silence on payment problems



It's not a nightmare for all

The magazine article states “Marks Barfield began looking at Dubai seriously in early 2008. By that time the global financial crisis was tightening its grip on the UK, but the emirate appeared unscathed. Marks and his wife and business partner Julia Barfield were among the droves of Brits who thought it would be wise to bid for work there.”

The situation for getting paid by clients in Dubai is very much as described in this cautionary tale of working in unfamiliar surroundings, though the logjam of unpaid invoices, is now beginning to loosen a bit (I'm chasing one invoice myself billed to a big Dubai developer, and trust me, getting clients here to pay is an artform unto itself). However, one must question Marks Barfield’s timing, especially so because the story here seems to imply that Mr. Marks was well aware of the deteriorating global economy in 2008, so just like all those wannabes in America who bought overpriced houses and condos at the top of the market in 2007, it looks like he was gambling himself that the good times would keep on rollin’.

I began my current employment in Dubai around the same time during early 2008 and it was pretty clear to me the day I arrived that I was late to the party. As it turned out, I’ve survived several rounds of layoffs during which time the staff of our 3 Dubai offices has been cut in half, so I guess it’s more a question of whether the glass is half empty or half full, the point being that not all in the "Dubai casino" are losers. The local economic situation seems to have stabilized, in fact, with those little green shoots sprouting up here and there.

Incidentally, the UAE Dirham exchange rate is fixed to the US Dollar, so it wasn’t the Dirham which fell on its own account, it was the US Dollar dragging it down (many here would like to see the Gulf currencies decouple from the US Dollar, in fact).


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