REPORT #17 July 12 1998
INVESTMENT, RISK & SYNDICATION
Comparing Dubai a success story and Belize a failure
Produced by the Belize
Just for speculative purposes let us compare the recent developments of
two countries. Belize and Dubai.
Dubai was a hard scrabble protectorate of Britain on the Arabian Gulf.
No resources and run by a monarchy. They call them Sultan, Shiek, or
Emir in that part of the world. The current population of Dubai is about
600,000 compared to the 220,000 of Belize.
Dubai was basically a fishing town, on a creek, where boats were
built. Sounds just like Belize. The climate is similar too. Pearl
diving was an industry, until cultured pearls from Japan killed the
market. They only have desert in the hinterland, so they had no
resources like Belize for agriculture, or forestry exploitation. In many
ways Dubai was worse off than Belize for resources. Yet Dubai always did
better than Belize.
How did they do it? They had a couple of factors that are lacking in
Belize. One was a continuous continuity of government policy and
encouragement. This through their clan structure and hereditary ruler
and family. They had a small population like Belize with everyone
related in some way or other to other citizens. In order to achieve this
in Belize, which is a polyglot population and has a much larger land area
and scattered population, we would have to provide continuity of
government policy, by a Federated system of District Governments, which
would control a small national government and the policy and spending.
This would give Belize a longer term continuity in government and
development policy. The parliamentary system we use, gets some new
crackpot amateur, with ideas elected to office every five years which
they have to try. This making continuous development impossible and long
term investment because of the divide and conquer nature of competitive
political party politics, impossible because of the cycles of political
The first thing Belize needs then, that Dubai has, is continuity of
long term development policy, a curb on the size of government, operating
from a smaller system of government. I would not in Belize recommend the
monarchy system used in Dubai, it would not fit; but a Federated District
Government model, like that of Switzerland, using Cooperative rules like
our fishing cooperatives would work very well to give government policy
The second thing is a change in the tenor and approach to commercial
re-exporting attitudes. Dubai always stood on it's own feet, with self
sufficiency, even though it has had a larger population than Belize and
less physical resources. The difference was in how those human resources
developed and were used. For the most part, Dubai people are
entrepreneurs. Let us examine, how their merchants operate.
For decades, even centuries, the Dubai coastal community have
operated in syndicates. Merchant syndicates. They re-export. Perhaps
gold across the 2000 miles of Indian Ocean to India, or American
cigarettes to Iran. It is the syndicated aspect of Dubai entrepreneurs
that is different to the similar operations in Belize.
Belize has always re-exported, from long before it became a colony, or
gained independence. The difference was, that merchants in Belize
operated for the most part alone. There are a lot of risky investment
ventures in the world and the Dubai merchants met this, much like the
Englishmen at Bristol, by grouping citizen merchants into syndicates. To
reduce risk. I recommend you read the book "Dubai" by Robin Moore. It
is 28 years old, but indicative and instructive as to a state of mind, of
both the government of Dubai and it's citizens. Entrepreneurs all.
Though a novel, much of the dreams expressed in this book have now become
a reality in Dubai today. The novel expressed the desire to have an
ocean harbor, or port for ocean going ships, office buildings, fresh
water, electricity and other things. All this has now been done in the
last 25 years. Due to a small oil field find, which is due to expire
fairly soon and dry up. This gave a cash flow, which in Dubai they
invested in infra-structure to enable them to continue the economic
re-export trade they know best from tradition, experience and history.
The point of this, the small oil revenue aside, is that Dubai was self
sufficient before the oil find and will be self sufficient after the oil
dries up shortly. Because of their human resources, experience, skills
and attitudes to economics and business. All the things that Dubai
aspired to acquire; the port, the jet airstrip, the electricity, the
water, all these things, Belize is already blessed with in abundance.
While Belize does not have cash flow from a small oil find, Belize has
the cash flow from agriculture exports and forestry. Things that are not
available to Dubai citizens as they live on the edge of a vast desert.
Their only assets in Dubai were human resources, and the Creek. A place
on the coast of the Indian Ocean, in which Dhows could enter, and load
and unload cargo. This has now been enlarged artificially and
modernized. The Creek was the most important asset Dubai had, other than
the attitudes and spirit of it's people. Belize has many port areas with
potential and it's own merchant creek right through the main port town.
Belize merchants have re-exported whisky to Mexico and American
cigarettes to Guatemala. The difference has always been, that merchants
were greedy and preferred to do things alone. When you do things alone,
you cannot take much in the way of risk, nor realize the profits that
come from risky ventures. Gold re-exporting out of Dubai can return 200
% profit on a shipment. Then again, sometimes the dhows were hijacked
and the load dumped, stolen, or lost. So the syndication of merchants
and investors allowed large shipments and economic re-export trade to
develop but with smaller risk by individuals. It is the forming of
syndicates and the reduction of risk that makes Dubai merchants superior
to those of Belize. Or the merchants of olden trading sailing ship days
out of Bristol, England.
Belize merchants are for the most part limited with minor amounts of
capital. They cannot grow, because they do not have the capital to risk.
They never developed syndicates to share risk and larger investments of
a speculative nature. The other aspect of Belize merchants is cowardice.
They did for the most part, insist that Mexicans and Guatemalans come to
Belize and buy their merchandize and do their own re-exporting. This
means any markup, or profit was minimal. Safe, but minimal!
Here lies the fundamental economic difference between the successful
self sufficiency of Dubai and that of the failure of Belize to realize
it's possibilities and potential. It is all in attitude and experience.
Human resources again.
St. Martin in the Eastern Caribbean carries on a thriving re-export
trade from the Dutch side.
For those with some sort of false moral influence, everything one does
in Dubai, St. Martin, or would be done in Belize for re-exporting is
legal. At least to the point it arrives at it's new destination. Dubai,
USA and Switzerland have shown that economics, and real money are the
only true harbingers of a high standard of living, national cash reserves
and general wealth. All other political arguments to one side.
Syndication of investment in Belize is needed. Small investments that
would accept risk of loss, but put together make sufficient potential for
a good profit. Then a product and destination crying out at high prices
for the product you wish to re-export.
I am out of touch with such things now in Belize, but did for some
decades dabble in warehouse overrun of manufactured clothes from
Honduras, through Belize, to Mexico and house building lumber from
Honduras, which the former was a solitary investor and the latter was a
I have tried to rack my brains to think of what things could be
re-exported by forming investment syndicates in Belize today. But I lack
the intimate knowledge of such things from the mainland port to guess.
My experience was always that Belizean merchants were wary and timid.
Though the Arab/Belizeans and Indian/Belizeans were more open to such
The only thing I can think of that would work like a high risk, high
profit venture, speculative investment would be in the field of finance.
For the sake of argument, I would offer to sponsor a syndicate for
speculative option investing, which is my current trade and occupation.
It is the only thing I am familiar with today. Let us say for example,
twelve Belizeans could be found to put in $1000 USA each for a $12,000
minimum option speculative high risk investment. The returns could be
200 % per year but since I would operate it, I would want half. That
makes a potential return of 100 % per year. The return may be less and
indeed there is risk of loss and I expect that the loss could be as much
as 30 % of the investment. I have a cut off value at 20 % loss in my own
speculative accounts, but this is not always controllable and the
investment can go down to 35 % before you can recover sometimes. The
upper limit in my style of option speculative investment is around
$50,000 USA. For larger sums of money, one has to go to the S&P 500
futures contract. In this, it is not unusual to see draw downs ( losses
) reach 50%, but again the high risk potential profit rewards are triple
digits for a year. Minimum total investment here is around a $100,000
and an upper limit of around $500,000 USA for trading account size.
I would doubt very much if any Belizean would risk any money, be it
$1000 minimum, or larger sums as part of a high risk speculative
investment syndicate to build a big enough account size for speculative
financial investment. Yet this example is equivalent to what they do in
Dubai every year and sometimes several times of year among the merchants
You can see the difference between attitudes and human resource
development and why one country like Dubai with smaller physical
resources than Belize and a larger population is self sufficient and why
the nation of Belize is heavily in debt to the tune of a half billion
The two major differences are the continuity of government planning and
re-export attitudes. The second part is the lack of high risk venture
speculators in Belize with small amounts, that would form speculative
syndicates to take potentially higher rewarding risk.