The more experience you have of the world, the more you see how badly we are served by the mainstream media. The recent events in Egypt provide the perfect example. Instead of hard news, we are given endless “pieces to camera” so beloved of biased but ignorant journalists. Amid all the jabbering about “people power”, the plain fact of the matter is that a President with a definite –albeit flawed – constitutional and democratic mandate was driven out of office by an old-fashioned military coup.
Mainstream reporters are now cheering on inanely and indiscriminately anyone in the Arab world who looks like a demonstrator. They simply do not understand the difference between Bahrain, Yemen, and Libya.
Bahrain is a fairly civilised place, a well-established and generally benevolent monarchy, relatively free of corruption, and well-integrated into the global economy. By contrast, Yemen is a very corrupt socialist republic, medieval in its attitudes and economic development, and largely living in self-imposed isolation from the rest of the world. Libya was somewhere between the two – a Yemen that wants to be a Bahrain.
This blog tries to avid partisan political comment. The only question we allow ourselves to ask here is, “How does this impact on business?” This is not because we do no not care for anything except business. On the contrary, we care too much and do not want to bore business readers with our equivalent of those biased “pieces to camera” on non-business subjects.
So, strictly from the point of view of business, change can be good or bad, but disorder and the breakdown of established legal systems are usually bad for business. The situation in Egypt is uncertain, and business in general dislikes uncertainty (though there are always the lucky, savvy or fearless few who benefit). On the other hand, any change in Libya or Yemen will almost certainly be for the better.
Violence in Bahrain, however, is undoubtedly bad for business. The cancellation of the Bahrain Grand Prix is the most high-profile example of nervousness among international business interests, whose investments in Bahrain are as important to the local economy as they are to the global financial network: radical change will disrupt both.
Also undeniably bad for business is the British government’s abrupt cancellation of export licences to Bahrain. These were issued to firms who assumed, in good faith, that Bahrain was a friend of Britain. For the British government to pretend suddenly that they are opposed to the rulers they have recognised – and flattered – for decades is both hypocritical and short-sighted.