The signs were obvious: the widening eyes and slight quiver of the lips; my mother was flustered and at a loss for words. The culprit? A simple question: “What is your child studying at university?”

I was pursuing my M.Phil in Moden Middle Eastern Studies at the time and my mother, an ardent believer in professions, could not see where the professionalism lay in that. Naturally, I resented her comments at the time, but 20 years later, whenever I sit in front of a blank page trying desperately to sound coherent, I wish I could just go into an office or a clinic or a workshop or a lab and be something, a carpenter or a doctor, or a lawyer or a welder; anything where I know the parameters and can work within them. Briefly, I wanted to think and work “in the box.”

In truth however, there are no more boxes. The economy has changed, business has changed and even spending has changed. Even the weather is changing! Nowhere is this better highlighted than in our featured articles in this issue of Middle East Point of View.

In their article on doing business with Chinese clients Winning with China Inc., James Babb and Madeleine Chen Todd specify that “business is business at end of the day,” however, “when it comes to dealing with this culturally and linguistically distinct group of clients, most of whom are relatively new in working within pre-defined international business protocols, it would certainly help to understand the whys and hows of their decision-making in order to form mutually beneficial relationships that are built for success and built to last.”

In his article on finance institutions’ need to diversify their income sources Rethinking the future, Umair Hammed advises: “With regulators all set to introduce new capital adequacy requirements and interest rates at all-time lows (and projected to potentially dip further), it’s a good juncture for finance companies to consider a re-think of their corporate strategy and business model, both in terms of sources of revenue as well as sources of funding.”

Changes are also happening in both, the private and the public sectors. Walid Chiniara, highlighting the need for the succession planning for family businesses in his article Acta est fabula, cautions: “[Family] businesses enhance the common good by providing employment, acting as a role model, producing required goods and services, and creating wealth that extends beyond the business family itself. Their contribution to society is so great in fact that the prosperity of the Middle East can be directly correlated with the presence of the family business. For these reasons alone, in today’s environment, failure of a family business is not an option, but, with good succession planning, nor is it inevitable.”

David Brazier writes about reduced public sector spending in his article Virtue borne out of necessity? He says: “The scale and speed of the change in the oil price has had a clear influence on the fiscal landscape for governments across the region. While the level and immediacy of the impact varies, most, if not all, have signposted a recasting–or rethinking–of major investment programs in infrastructure.”

The skyline in Qatar is also undergoing major transformation as highlighted by Bilal Marroush in the article Raising the ceiling of expectations. “There is no doubt” he writes, “that Qatar is taking many steps toward building a healthy economy with strong bases…The country is undergoing a massive boom on different fronts and all of this depends heavily on building and sustaining a well-advanced infrastructure supported by a mixed blend of a real estate market be it commercial, residential, public and touristic and a broader vision to transport the country to a different era that is promising for its residents and the whole region.”

The Qatari development boom should be aided by new laws enacted there as well as in Bahrain as explained by Nick Witty in his article on the subject Trust me, I’m a real estate developer. “During 2014,” says Witty “both the Bahraini and Qatari Governments confirmed their intentions to enact real estate development laws intended to regulate market practice, thereby strengthening their respective markets and more importantly, promoting investor confidence.”

So whether you believe in boxes or not, I am sure you will find this issue of our magazine very informative in helping you map the way forward.

by: Rana Hanna, editor, Deloitte Middle East Point of View magazine

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