What makes our emirate the stand-out economy in the Middle East?
A recent survey of the world’s 300 biggest metropolitan economies – New York and London among them - found that Dubai ranked fifth for its rising per capita income and strong employment growth.
These economic achievements illustrate Dubai’s transformative power of ambitious ideas, grit and good fortune.
The emirate’s powerful combination of economic liberty with strategic economic policy and the forces of modernisation and technology, have turned it into a locus of prosperity and stability.
The World Economic Forum ranked the UAE 12th out of 144 economies in 2014-15 and at the top of its competitiveness index for the Middle East.
And the International Monetary Fund has described the UAE in 2015 as one of the most diversified and competitive economies in the Middle East. Yet the sources of Dubai’s success remain intriguing.
Despite the widespread belief that its wealth is based on oil exports, they supply only six per cent of its revenues.
Dubai’s inheritance was a sandy desert with relatively small oil and gas reserves.
Out of an estimated 98 billion barrels of oil reserves in the United Arab Emirates, Dubai has four billion, with most of the oil is located in its neighbor, the emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Now in 2015, central Dubai is a global metropolis of incredible skyscrapers, colossal urban infrastructure projects and a globalised workforce.
Dubai now produces a grand bazaar of diversified wealth—in wholesale and retail trade, transport, communications, manufacturing, real estate, construction, and tourism.
These sectors have pushed the emirate’s annual growth rates to more than four per cent in recent years, the best in the region.
Dubai is now ranked as one of world’s top five cities for finance, logistics, tourism and trade, and is on its way to becoming the centre of the global Islamic economy.
Its success has been based on geographic luck, an open approach to immigration and foreign investment, and a strategic approach to development that emphasises infrastructure and innovation.
Located at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, geography has helped transform Dubai into a platform for these markets and as an investment and tourist destination.
Dubai’s success also has been buoyed by its open approach to immigration and foreign investment, its embrace of communications technology and respect for the knowledge economy.
Its infrastructure is unparalleled and its cities now host some of the world’s most impressive skyscrapers and office blocks, hospitals and highways.
In logistics, Port Jebel Ali is the world’s largest man made port and Dubai International Airport is the world’s busiest passenger terminal.
The great supply chains of global trade also intersect in Dubai, making the city a major trading entrepot between East and West.
A commitment to economic growth and receptivity to different cultural trends and practices have energised new ways of doing business and attracting investment.
Dubai’s success also relies on the fusion of strategic ideas about economic development with private sector energies.
The practical impact of these strategic ideas, crystallised in the Dubai Strategic Plan 2021 has been profound.
One of the most important of these ideas was the establishment of the Free Zones, where entrepreneurs in the same sector can group together in the same location.
Dubai hosts more than 20 Free Zones that offer foreign investors full ownership rights, tax incentives and full repatriation rights for capital and profit. There is also no personal income tax.
Within these zones is the whole spectrum of modern industrial activity and innovation, from IT to health care, pharmaceutical research, semiconductors and industry, to media and finance.
The Jebel Ali Free Zone hosts 7100 companies; Dubai International Finance Centre is the largest financial services centre between Singapore and Europe; and Silicon Oasis hosts some of the world’s major IT companies.
The constellation of forces that underpin Dubai’s economic success continues to attract the attention of foreign investors. They see the emirate as a key player in global trade and finance and as a centre of innovation for entrepreneurs.