Sunday, September 07, 2008

Coming out of the shadow of Dubai

The Times:
Abu Dhabi’s rulers realise that it will take more than one-off projects to secure their future. They know that it must be based on trade, financial services and tourism – and that there is a place for such a global centre to develop between the European and Asian time zones. THE fly in the ointment is that they have a rival, Dubai, a fellow member of the United Arab Emirates which is only 90 minutes away up the desert highway.

“The UAE is supposed to be one federal state but, crucially, when it was created in 1971 each of the emirates retained the right to keep its natural resources and therefore its own economic path,” explained Christopher Davidson, a Middle East expert at Durham University. “Now we are beginning to see different emirates drift away from each other more and more.”

For Dubai, the need to diversify is more pressing. It has less than 1% of the oil reserves of Abu Dhabi and the wells are projected to run dry in 20 years. This has led to the ruling Maktoum family sanctioning a development programme in Dubai the likes of which the world has never seen before. New islands have been built alongside the world’s deepest man-made port. The world’s biggest airport – bigger than Cardiff in area – and the 1km-high Al Burj tower are under construction. This is not to mention the 500 hotels being built. In total an estimated £500 billion has been spent on new infrastructure.

Abu Dhabi looks with slight disdain at Dubai’s rapid expansion. “It’s a well known joke that they built the city first and then thought about designing it,” said Martin Freeman, a British management consultant who has worked in Abu Dhabi for three years. “Abu Dhabi is a more considered place. Here they are designing the city and then building.”
Oh dear, there's that Christopher Davidson dude, again.

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