President Donald Trump addresses the audience at a Make America Great Again rally at the Four Seasons Arena at Montana ExpoPark, Thursday, July 5, 2018, in Great Falls, Mont., in support of Rep. Greg Gianforte, R-Mont., and GOP Senate candidate Matt Rosendale. (AP Photo/Jim Urquhart)
US President Donald Trump at a rally in Montana. Jim Urquhart / AP

It might not seem like it, but the world has never had it so good



Cheer up, it’s not as bad as you think. That's not my opinion; I know it for a fact, and that fact is as follows: things are, mostly, getting better around the world.

It may be difficult to believe at a time when it’s easy to recite a long list of things that are not going well. We have humanitarian disasters, from the refugee boats in the Mediterranean to the plight of Myanmar's Rohingya people. We have grinding poverty, crime, and disease. We also have climate change and the loss of species, including great beasts being poached for their horns or as trophies by self-absorbed hunters, or the loss of their habitats through the destruction of ancient forests.

But just because there is a lot of bad in the world does not mean that things are not improving for most of us. In reality, they are. And there's a recently published book that goes to great lengths to prove it: Factfulness by the Swedish doctor, researcher and academic Hans Rosling.

In his own words, Mr Rosling's life’s mission was “to fight devastating ignorance with a fact-based worldview". I cannot think of anything more important right now than treating facts and fact-based arguments with respect. The book does so with real insight. For example, rather than dwell on the inequalities between rich and poor, Mr Rosling points out that in the past 50 or so years, more people have been pulled out of poverty than ever before in human history, most notably in China and India.

Yes, there are still great inequalities, but for most people life is getting better, even for those considered poor. As Mr Rosling puts it: “Life expectancy in low-income countries is 62 years. Most people have enough to eat, most people have access to improved water, most children are vaccinated, and most girls finish primary school…the idea of a divided world with a majority stuck in misery and deprivation is an illusion. A complete misconception. Simply wrong.”

Part of Mr Rosling’s analysis is in that phrase “divided world”. Humans tend to share the common failing of dividing the world into binaries. You are “for us” or “against us”. You are rich or poor. You live in the developed or developing world. Mr Rosling argues that these categories are not useful, and indeed are misleading.

He suggests four income levels. At the bottom, level 4, is grinding poverty. At the top, level 1, the kind of wealth we associate with Japan, Europe, the UAE, Malaysia and the US. In the middle, levels 2 and 3, we have a range from Kenya and Pakistan right up through India and China. China is on level 2 but ready to burst into level 1.

Mr Rosling’s point is that, for all that is wrong in the world, the movement up from the bottom has brought about one of the biggest positive changes in human history.

His book is worth reading as a counterweight to the miserable nature of today’s news and the headlines about death and destruction around the world.

But it is also worth cherishing for another reason: Mr Rosling celebrates facts. Facts are the basis of the Enlightenment, the intellectual movement rooted in the 18th century, which brought us modern science, modern medicine and overturned generations of superstition and ignorance.

Unfortunately this fact-based world view is itself being challenged and eroded by the phenomena we call fake news, a “post-truth world” and deliberate disinformation and lies. It often feels as though we have moved from fact-based enlightenment to a kind of un-enlightenment.

In the UK, those of us who point rigorously to the obvious facts are told, as I was lectured recently, to “have faith” in a political programme bringing Brexit to Britain.

But the idea of “faith based politics” rather than fact-based politics appears everywhere. In Britain, the facts about Brexit are that it has profoundly unsettled many businesses, with some speaking openly about relocating outside the UK. Disregarding these concerns, some politicians, on the basis of no facts whatsoever, claim money and wonderful new trade deals will roll into the UK from a fanciful “Brexit Dividend”.

In America, President Donald Trump’s casual disregard for facts is even more noticeable. In his un-enlightenment world, facts about trade, tariffs and promising new industries are ignored in favour of protecting the old rustbelt US economy of steel and automobiles.

Worse still, an un-enlightenment worldview can cost lives. In many countries vaccination rates against common childhood diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella have started to go down after an aggressive campaign based on no scientific evidence whatsoever that vaccinations may cause autism and other serious conditions.

Mr Trump, politicians in the new Italian government and elsewhere have endorsed such fact-free malevolent nonsense. The result will be increased incidence of preventable diseases and even child fatalities.

Despite all that, there are reasons to be cheerful. Mr Rosling's book is full of them. It's just a pity that Factfulness is not a compulsory text for anyone seeking political leadership anywhere in the world.

Gavin Esler is a journalist, author and television presenter

Company Profile

Company name: Namara
Started: June 2022
Founder: Mohammed Alnamara
Based: Dubai
Sector: Microfinance
Current number of staff: 16
Investment stage: Series A
Investors: Family offices

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Mercer, the investment consulting arm of US services company Marsh & McLennan, expects its wealth division to at least double its assets under management (AUM) in the Middle East as wealth in the region continues to grow despite economic headwinds, a company official said.

Mercer Wealth, which globally has $160 billion in AUM, plans to boost its AUM in the region to $2-$3bn in the next 2-3 years from the present $1bn, said Yasir AbuShaban, a Dubai-based principal with Mercer Wealth.

Within the next two to three years, we are looking at reaching $2 to $3 billion as a conservative estimate and we do see an opportunity to do so,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Mercer does not directly make investments, but allocates clients’ money they have discretion to, to professional asset managers. They also provide advice to clients.

“We have buying power. We can negotiate on their (client’s) behalf with asset managers to provide them lower fees than they otherwise would have to get on their own,” he added.

Mercer Wealth’s clients include sovereign wealth funds, family offices, and insurance companies among others.

From its office in Dubai, Mercer also looks after Africa, India and Turkey, where they also see opportunity for growth.

Wealth creation in Middle East and Africa (MEA) grew 8.5 per cent to $8.1 trillion last year from $7.5tn in 2015, higher than last year’s global average of 6 per cent and the second-highest growth in a region after Asia-Pacific which grew 9.9 per cent, according to consultancy Boston Consulting Group (BCG). In the region, where wealth grew just 1.9 per cent in 2015 compared with 2014, a pickup in oil prices has helped in wealth generation.

BCG is forecasting MEA wealth will rise to $12tn by 2021, growing at an annual average of 8 per cent.

Drivers of wealth generation in the region will be split evenly between new wealth creation and growth of performance of existing assets, according to BCG.

Another general trend in the region is clients’ looking for a comprehensive approach to investing, according to Mr AbuShaban.

“Institutional investors or some of the families are seeing a slowdown in the available capital they have to invest and in that sense they are looking at optimizing the way they manage their portfolios and making sure they are not investing haphazardly and different parts of their investment are working together,” said Mr AbuShaban.

Some clients also have a higher appetite for risk, given the low interest-rate environment that does not provide enough yield for some institutional investors. These clients are keen to invest in illiquid assets, such as private equity and infrastructure.

“What we have seen is a desire for higher returns in what has been a low-return environment specifically in various fixed income or bonds,” he said.

“In this environment, we have seen a de facto increase in the risk that clients are taking in things like illiquid investments, private equity investments, infrastructure and private debt, those kind of investments were higher illiquidity results in incrementally higher returns.”

The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, one of the largest sovereign wealth funds, said in its 2016 report that has gradually increased its exposure in direct private equity and private credit transactions, mainly in Asian markets and especially in China and India. The authority’s private equity department focused on structured equities owing to “their defensive characteristics.”

Leaderboard

63 - Mike Lorenzo-Vera (FRA)

64 - Rory McIlroy (NIR)

66 - Jon Rahm (ESP)

67 - Tom Lewis (ENG), Tommy Fleetwood (ENG)

68 - Rafael Cabrera-Bello (ESP), Marcus Kinhult (SWE)

69 - Justin Rose (ENG), Thomas Detry (BEL), Francesco Molinari (ITA), Danny Willett (ENG), Li Haotong (CHN), Matthias Schwab (AUT)

Company profile

Name: Tabby
Founded: August 2019; platform went live in February 2020
Founder/CEO: Hosam Arab, co-founder: Daniil Barkalov
Based: Dubai, UAE
Sector: Payments
Size: 40-50 employees
Stage: Series A
Investors: Arbor Ventures, Mubadala Capital, Wamda Capital, STV, Raed Ventures, Global Founders Capital, JIMCO, Global Ventures, Venture Souq, Outliers VC, MSA Capital, HOF and AB Accelerator.

The specs: 2018 Nissan 370Z Nismo

The specs: 2018 Nissan 370Z Nismo
Price, base / as tested: Dh182,178
Engine: 3.7-litre V6
Power: 350hp @ 7,400rpm
Torque: 374Nm @ 5,200rpm
Transmission: Seven-speed automatic
​​​​​​​Fuel consumption, combined: 10.5L / 100km

Fringe@Four Line-up

October 1 - Phil Nichol (stand-up comedy)

October 29 - Mandy Knight (stand-up comedy)

November 5 - Sinatra Raw (Fringe theatre)

November 8 - Imah Dumagay & Sundeep Fernandes (stand-up comedy)

November 13 - Gordon Southern (stand-up comedy)

November 22 - In Loyal Company (Fringe theatre)

November 29 - Peter Searles (comedy / theatre)

December 5 - Sinatra’s Christmas Under The Stars (music / dinner show)