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19 April, 2004

Not yet driving in my car

The lack of any of the usual brochures on car loans, or garish posters featuring smiling abayas in Pajeros, should probably have been the first significant warning sign. Seated behind a vast desk at National Bank of Dishdash, the inquiry about auto finance caused more than a flicker of alarm. In a nanosecond comes the response: "Have you perhaps tried HSBC?"

"Yes, but this is my bank, so I preferred to see what you had to offer." A flurry of action and clouds of dust swirl aound as fat folders are dug out the archives. Fingers leaf through bunches of elderly memos, their A4 whiteness dulled to parchment yellow, to find something that might remotely resemble a percentage rate.

Around a dozen phone calls are made. "Mona, do you remember if anyone has taken a car loan out recently at one of the other branches?"

That a standard procedure at any other back is a legendary novelty in these vaults is hardly encouraging.

It was finally decided that car loans were available, yes, but only to people working for Approved Companies. Not to people who have held bank accounts tens of thousands of dirhams in credit for the past three years, and had three years of regular salary cheques paid in.

"How does a company become Approved?" Ah - this is sorry-to-say a very, very lengthy procedure. The company must have a minimum number of employees (25 - ruling out 80% of TeCom firms), it must have done all its banking with National Bank of Dishdash for the past three centuries, it must burn a weekly sacrifice of twenty-four fat camels to the Moon God, and it must be headquartered in a solid gold tower on a magic floating island in the Creek.

HSBC and the Developed World, here we come.



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