Dubai’s grand ambitions are achievable

Parts of the UAE woke up to a misty morning. Sarah Dea / The National
Parts of the UAE woke up to a misty morning. Sarah Dea / The National

By unveiling its ambitious plans for 2021, Dubai once again proves prominent futurist and best-selling author Parag Khanna’s theory that global cities rather than states will dominate this century. Cities, he says, are the “engines of globalisation” and the real frontier of change and growth. And port cities like Dubai are at the top of the heap, he argues because these are the “Venices of the 21st century”, as rich and powerful as the Italian city-state 600 years ago.

Dubai clearly agrees. As The National reported yesterday, Dubai Plan 2021 lays out its aspirations to be a smart and sustainable city, full of happy, creative and empowered people, who belong to different cultures but share a commitment to a cohesive society.

If that were not lofty enough, Dubai also aims to be the world’s preferred destination to live, work and visit, as well as a pivotal hub in the global economy. It plans to measure its progress on all these fronts using a checklist of more than 600 criteria.

These are ambitious goals but not impossible for a city like Dubai. It has already come a long way in a short period of time, positioning itself as the global destination of choice in many fields.

A 2013 study by MasterCard predicted that Dubai would draw more international visitors than New York and Singapore by 2016 and Paris by 2017. Forbes ranked Dubai the world’s seventh most influential city this year. And it is the only regional representative on PricewaterhouseCoopers’s Cities of Opportunity 2014 list due to its well-located airports, low corporate tax rates, and high quality of life.

All of this chimes with Mr Khanna’s stated admiration for Dubai as the regional centre of gravity. As he puts it: “Anyone who has ever been in Dubai’s glitzy Terminal 3 knows that it is a perpetually buzzing hive and crossroads of all the Earth’s geographies and civilisations.”

Everything on the ambitious new road map may not be achieved in the next seven years. But it is good to know where one wants to go. A thousand years ago, European city-states were key to commercial expansion. In the 21st century, Dubai may be poised to be both global hub and gateway city.

Published: December 18, 2014 04:00 AM