Introduction and Purpose
The city of Dubai has emerged as a home to more than 1.2 million people and forms the most populous city in the United Arab Emirates (Fazli 205). The city has continuously registered progressive growth in the recent past and the trend continues to grow rapidly towards the emergence of an advanced metropolis and tourist destination characterized by five star luxury hotels, extensively stocked shopping malls, high class restaurants as well as exclusive residential beach side villas among other attractive sceneries that serve to attract ore people into the popular city of Dubai (Fazli 204). Through the city’s emergence as one of the major biggest tourist attraction of the world as well as a world’s most popular shopping and re exporting destination, the city of Dubai contributes to a significant share of the country’s overall total gross domestic product and the economic performance of the entire region of the United Arab Emirates (Fazli 204).
One of the greatest questions that remain to be seen is whether the city of Dubai will be able to withstand the external forces emanating from widespread recession prevalent in most world economies despite its heavy economic dependence on tourism and tourist related activities which are in turn dependent on foreign economic conditions (Fazli 205). In addition, the city has to withstand more external pressures as a result of its dependence on foreign investment and foreign labor which renders it vulnerable to any shifts in the external market (Fazli 205).
The city of Dubai differs from other major Western cities in terms of the process of emergence since the Western cities process of transition from pre industrial periods to post industrial era occurred over long periods of time with some states developing after a two century period (Dumper 138). On the other hand, the city of Dubai experienced rapid transition lasting over a period of fifty years and has received significant progress ever since through its transformation from an insignificant fishing settlement into a highly urbanized cosmopolitan region of the Middle East (Dumper 138).
The economic transformation of the city of Dubai over the recent decades has been accompanied by major structural changes in the social settings, population structures as well as the pattern of urban development (Dumper 138). With increased urbanization, more than 70% of the population in the region was found to be non United Arab Emirates nationals who had been attracted into the region by increased economic activities which provided numerous job opportunities and played a major role in the development of the region as a city state it is today (Dumper 138).
The past two decades have witnessed rapid acceleration in terms of economic growth as well as explosive urban expansion which has transformed the region into a commercial center within the United Arab Emirates region and provides a locus through which other regions can host imaginative urban developments (Dumper 138). The city creates an image that displays the region as the most progressive metropolitan in the Middle East and the whole world at large and numerous countries seek to emulate the strategies applied by city of Dubai in its development (Dumper 138).
However, behind the beautiful image portrayed by the city of Dubai, the region has experienced numerous difficulties during its development and the rapid urbanization has also negatively impacted on the region. It is therefore important for any region aspiring to follow the city of Dubai’s foot steps to understand the strategies, challenges and negative implications involved in the entire process of rapid urbanization.
Brief history of Dubai
There exists limited history documented on the early history of the city of Dubai, however, the archaeological remains found in the Northeastern outskirts of the region reveals evidence of human settlement in the region that dates back to 8000 BC (Dunston 38). Until 3000 BC, the area was dominated by nomadic herders and the early inhabitants camped on the coast and fished during winter and moved in the inland during summer (Dunston 38).
Evidence of trade in the early periods is evidenced by discovery of pottery from Ubaid dating back to 5000 BC and agricultural practices such as cultivation of date palms in 2500 BC which not only provided food but also a range of material for building, weaving and other industries (Dunston 38). Archaeological evidence further suggests that the present day Dubai was closely associated with Magan civilization during the Bronze Age (Dunston 38). There is little archeological, evidence of occupation of Dubai during the Iron Age and the next major inhabitants in the area appeared in the Sassanid Empire (Dunston 38).
The city of Dubai was well established as an independent town with a population of about ten thousand people by the beginning of the 20th century (Dunston 42). The development of Dubai as a major trading center was in a most ironical way highly facilitated by the collapse of pearling industry which had been the key driving force of the economy for many years (Dunston 42). The collapse of the pearling industry was highly facilitated by the world wide depression of 1929.
Currently, Dubai is among the fastest growing cities in the world and this achievement was highly facilitated oil discovery in 1966 from which it derived one of the major exports since 1969 (Dunston 36). The modern city of Dubai has achieved remarkable growth over the years and the trend has continued to accelerate over time enabling the country to experience extra ordinary economic boom that the economy enjoys presently (Dunston 36).
The image of the 21st century Dubai of the city displays a major transformation of a small trading center that existed 40 years ago to an international travel hub, major tourism attraction as well as a business power house (Dunston 8). The city is prevalent with all year round sunshine, stunning five star beach hotels , endless shopping complexes , bubbling night life and world class sports events which makes it one of the most popular cities in the world (Dunston 8).
Strategic Plan for Development of the City
The government of Dubai established free zones in the region in order to attract foreign investment and improve the economic performance of the country (Terterov 145). The government set out to exploit the benefits associated with strategic geographical position of the country y constructing a major international port in the county consequently attracting much of the Emirates business activities (Oxford business group 27).
The Jebel Ali free zone which was established in the mid 1985 has attracted a considerably large number of multinational corporations which has consequently highlighted Dubai as one of the world’s major commercial centers (Terterov 145). Being the largest artificial port in the world, Jebel Ali port provides the region and the world at large with a modern and efficient hub with a capacity to handle the largest container ship and other vessels in the region which facilitates efficient sea transportation further promoting trade (Terterov 145).
The government has also established the Dubai technology zone and the media free zones which is a tax free commercial site established by Dubai government to support the development of knowledge based industries in the region and offers significant business incentives to promote growth in industries and reduce the cost of establishing, maintaining and relocating businesses (Terterov 149). Companies situated in the free zone enjoy total ownership of their establishments and are not subjected to taxes on sales, company earnings as well as private income which motivate multinational corporations to venture into the region (Terterov 149).
Further, the zones provide full repatriation on capital and profits on companies that are established in these zones and create an environment with no currency restrictions and one that ensures simplification in procedures through effortless registration and licensing of companies as well as protection of intellectual property (Terterov 149). The procedure for application of government approvals and services including those pertaining to application of trade visas and work permits have been simplified in the free zones which further attracts both local and foreign investments in the county consequently improving the country’s balance of trade (Terterov 149).
In addition, the government of Dubai established the Dubai internet city which forms a strategic base for ICT companies targeting to access the emerging markets through out the Middle East, India, Africa and the CIS countries (Terterov 149). The internet city is currently dominated by the global ICT giants such as Microsoft and Oracle among others consequently providing the region with state of art technology platform which is a major stronghold through which Dubai attracts investment as most modern companies utilize high tech means to achieve their objectives (Terterov 150).
Further, the zone provides solutions for companies looking to provide cost effective business processes outsourcing services such as call center operations (Terterov 150). The internet city provides a condusive environment for ICT businesses to prosper and also attracts other related industries. In addition, the city has provided development opportunities and also offers high standards of advanced business interactions and networking opportunities that can be utilized for efficient operations in businesses and enhanced knowledge sharing in the business community consequently promoting innovation and inventions (Terterov 150).
The Dubai media city is strategically positioned at a readily accessible location and is rapidly emerging as global media center facilitating media interactions (Terterov 150). The media city provides the region with the modern infrastructure and condusive environment through which media related companies can prosper (Terterov 150).
The facility offers a condusive environment through which companies and individuals can operate with collective synergy and individual freedom and it is increasingly expanding its infrastructure to provide more space for a richer and more diverse community for media and other related companies (Terterov 150). In addition, the government established the Dubai airport free zone with the aim of creating an ideal business environment for large international companies that select the zones not only as a base for United Arab emirates but also as a regional base for manufacturing distribution and services which served to increase regional accessibly and investment in the region (Terterov 151)
In an attempt to gain economic independence, the government sought to diversify the economy of the region focusing more on oil unrelated economic sectors (Davidson 99). The withdrawal of the British from the region allowed for hitherto unfeasible policies to be pursued consequently facilitating rapid economic development in Dubai (Davidson 99).
Some of the applied oil related strategies for development received remarkable success especially in the energy dependent industrialization as well as particular overseas investments (Davidson 99). However, continuous reliance on oil exports as well as the oil related strategies did not progressively continue to elicit desirable outcomes and in fact rendered the region vulnerable to the pressures of international market and other external forces in the long run (Davidson 99).
In addition, the country had limited oil reserves relative to its fellow United Arab Emirates counterparts such as Au Dhabi and sustenance of such strategies was significantly hindered (Davidson 99). This led ton the need to diversify the economy and consequently the government of Dubai sought to establish a successful commercial sector through utilization of its available oil wealth to establish a well established infrastructure to facilitate other sectors of the economy (Davidson 99).
With the aim of improving the balance of trade, diversifying the economy as well as promoting foreign investment in the region, the government promoted establishment of export processing free zones, a luxurious tourist industry, a solid manufacturing base as well as launching a real estate market geared to attract foreign investors to venture into the region (Davidson 100).
However, despite the fact that these diversifications were expected to positively impact on the economy, various concerns have been raised regarding the real estate industry which has been unstable in the recent past due to the economic boom experienced in Dubai and the widespread recession that has hit the global economy (Davidson 100). It is worth noting that Dubai managed to effectively free itself from oil dependency and this was highly facilitated by post hydro carbon development strategies that had gained popularity all over the world (Davidson 100).
The oil industry had slowly emerged in the region and despite earlier efforts to exploit it, the development of Sheikdom’s oil industry finally kicked off in the early 60s with increased pace that triggered anticipated boom in the mid 60s (Davidson 100). This significantly promoted development in Dubai in the late 20th century especially during the oil boom but the long term effects of oil dependence on the region proved detrimental to the long run economic performance of the region (Davidson 100).
Through rentier structures, the government of Dubai was able to considerably incorporate the rising demands of the citizens for political participation through the 70s and 80s and the high revenues achieved from oil resources facilitated the establishment of a system of distributed wealth in which all the members of the national population and provided housing, government services and welfare to the population (Davidson 178).
This allocative system persists to date and the government derives substantial rent from many economic sectors that have currently been established (Davidson 178). In addition, many citizens have become rentiers in their own right and this has been facilitated by diversifying the economy providing them with opportunities to earn interests from land (Davidson 178). This diversification enabled conversion of worthless tracts of desert land into multi million dollar real estate opportunities which consequently led to development of the city of Dubai as one covering a vast portion of the United Arab Emirate region (Davidson 178). In addition, continuity of rent shored up ruling bargain consequently facilitating development by contributing significantly to political stability (Davidson 178).
However, persistence of such structures in Dubai has created enormous problems in the region. They have attracted a large number of foreign populations into the country and consequently young people who are nationals of Dubai are unable to compete in the labor market due to flooding of educated foreigners into the region where they occupy positions in the private sector that is growing at a faster rate than the public sector (Davidson 178).
Further, through diversification, the government of Dubai aimed at diversifying its economy and shifting its focus to non oil related economic sectors which allowed the region to greatly reduce its reliance on oil exports and other oil related strategies which included overseas investments and heavy energy dependent industrialization (Davidson 182). However, these diversifications may not have actually reduced the country’s dependent on foreigners and indeed have made the region more vulnerable to international political and economic instabilities (Davidson 182).
With most of Dubai’s Gross domestic product emanating from free zones tourist attractions, and real estate projects and all their associated construction, retail and service industries, it is evident that if foreign investment or foreign interest would decline, then the new and superficially successful post oil economy would be adversely affected and the city of Dubai would e headed for a down fall (Davidson 182). The country is therefore expected to maintain high levels of regional stability by remaining aloof from regional conflict, terrorism and organized crime among other instabilities prevalent in the Middle East region whose presence in Dubai would heavily impact on foreign investment prompting multinational companies to withdraw their ventures from the region (Davidson 182).
As part of the strategic plan, the government sought to provide investors with attractive terms in the capital markets (Oxford business group 68). Despite the volatile conditions that were persistent in the global market, the capital markets in Dubai performed considerably well in 2007 and the earlier part of 2008 which served to shape the investors profile and also attract foreign direct investment into the region (Oxford business group 68).
Clearly, there was a lot of interest to gain from the market in Dubai consequently transforming the investor composition and making the market more internationally based (Oxford business group 68). In addition, the government sought to establish and develop the region’s core competencies in technology, media among other key sectors which ensured provision of economic incentives for companies in the region (World Bank 62).
The government also formulated and implemented policies geared at transforming the emirate into an internationally renowned hub through massive return of middle Eastern finance and the oil boom (World bank 62) To achieve this end the country managed to gain permission to exempt its financial sector from all federation commercial laws of the United Arab Emirates and to establish a commercial system that would do business with foreign currency such as dollars and pounds which further facilitated international trade and foreign investment in Dubai (World Bank 62).
In order to develop a world class city accessible to all regions of the world, the government of Dubai set out to establish an extensive infrastructure aimed at attracting foreign investment and easing accessibility into the city (Noack 23).Dubai government heavily invested in various infrastructural projects to facilitate transportation in the region and provide a framework for boosting their economic growth (Noack 23).
Currently, the city of Dubai has already exceeded its traffic capacity due to increased population which causes huge traffic jams in the city especially during peak hours (Noack 23). Therefore, the country requires keeping up with continuous construction of infrastructure ranging from ridges and roads in order to maintain standards as high as European standards (Noack 23).
To meet the increasing demands from traffic in goods, the country constructed ports such as Jebel Ali and Port Rashid and established advanced logistic and handling facilities to enable the transportation of goods into and out of the country (Noack 23). The capacity of these ports is very high consequently facilitating efficient overseas trade through efficient transportation and minimization of delays at ports during offloading. In addition, the government set to expand existing airports and establish new airports and this was significantly influenced by increased tourism and business volumes in the region (Noack 23).
This induced expansion of the major air port in Dubai and the development projects utilized considerable amounts of the national resources in both modernization and expansion of air transport facilities (Noack 23). Dubai international airport which is strategically situated in the centre of Dubai is among the busiest airport in the country and in the world (Noack 23). The airport has achieved remarkable growth in the recent past and the exponential growth achieved over the years prompted the government to expand the airport and also to and also construct another airport (Noack 23).
Dubai world Central, which is strategically positioned in the Jebel Ali Industrial zone, was set up to cater for increased passenger and freight traffic in the region (Noack 23). In addition, the government established an efficient water and electrical infrastructure which is readily available in most parts of Dubai (Noack 25). The region’s authority promoted water conservation measures in order to conserve the resource and cater for the increasing demand for such amenities in the city centers (Noack 25). This served to improve the standards of living in the city further attracting more people into the region. In addition, the government sought to offer a state of the art technology in telecommunication infrastructure which constituted fiber optic integrated services as well as digital mobile network (Noack 26).
Challenges Faced in Dubai’s urbanization
Rapid urbanization that took place in the city of Dubai was not a simple process and was characterized by complex processes that involved economic and structural restructuring in addition to the rapid population growth (Fazli 205). The growth in the city is responsible for serious environmental, economic and social changes in Dubai. The city of Dubai is congested and overcrowded leading to problems associated with city congestion, unrest among foreign workers as well as problems of social insecurity (Fazli 205). Increase in economic activity led to increased job opportunities which attracted foreign migrants who provided cheap plentiful labor and had to seek residence in the city (Fazli 205).
Although various economic strategies employed by the government of Dubai had succeeded in reducing overall dependency on oil, and the Al Maktum family carefully evolved into democratic rule that secured considerable political stability, deeper interconnected problems entrenched in these strategies begin to materialize and seriously impacted on Dubai’s long term prospects for further development (Davidson 177).
Particularly, the persistence of rentier structures continued to burden the government with distributive practices and bred a considerable unproductive mentality among the national population consequently reducing the population’s output (Davidson 177). In addition, the sectors that were established with the purpose of attracting foreign investment made Dubai increasingly reliant on foreign economies than it were during the oil booms making it increasingly vulnerable to external market forces (Davidson 177).
The population of the city of Dubai rapidly expanded and heavily constituted of expatriate population which differed from the predominantly Muslim community, this, coupled with the reforms and relaxations in the political sector had the effect of weakening many of the existing ruler’s described ideologies, religious and cultural legitimacy resources and led to overall undermining of national identity towards development of a culture that embraced elite structures despite the government’s attempts to nationalize some sections of the labor force (Davidson 177). Further, many segments of civil society remained enfeebled and failure to address these issues limited their ability to lend effective support to the region’s development efforts (Davidson 178).
Establishment of free zones exposes the region to further economic problems with the persistent fear that Dubai was promoting the globalization of the economy ahead of any real commitment to regional integration (Davidson 184). Presence of unbalanced integration is believed to undermine the primary need for building a strong Gulf economy (Davidson 184). Further, Dubai witnessed sharp economic slowdown as oil prices and a global financial crisis adversely affected the real estate prices and stock market (Fazli 207). The country was challenged in terms of exports, real estate and constructions sectors and the government sought to keep its economy growing by expanding its public sector (Fazli 207).
Through rapid rise of the city, the region experienced environmental degradation which is always economic growth (Fazli 207). Transition from a traditional economy into a modern highly urbanized country rapidly in Dubai came with associated costs on the environment (Fazli 207). The habitat of wildlife was adversely affected and almost went into extinction as a result of rapid urbanization and industrialization in the region (Fazli 207).
Waste management and pollution issues also arose as a result of establishment of industrial zones and oil trade (Fazli 207). In addition, tourists recreational outdoor activities considerably affected the environment especially due to the establishment of numerous resorts in the along the coastline (Fazli 207). Further, lack of well outlined frameworks and environment legislation awareness as well as ignorance of the existing link between lifestyles in Dubai and its effects on the environment has greatly promoted environmental degradation in the region (Fazli 2007).
Ethical issue and ethical business standards are a major issue that raises concerns in the city of Dubai (Stier par 1). Companies willing to invest in the region were put off by the infamous bakshish and Waasta which spells out corruption and is common in the United Arab Emirates regions (Stier par 1) Consequently, the foreign companies were discouraged by the negative implications of such practices in business activities (Stier par 1).
While according to the transparency international, the middle east region ranks among the most corrupt regions of the world, this negatively impacted on Dubai’s efforts to attract foreign investment in the region since the corporate world was continually transforming into a culture that upholds ethical standards aimed at minimizing corruption as one of the major social corporate responsibility and a major global expectation (Stier par 7).
The United Arab Emirate country’s political power is based on family and wealth and lacks a directly elected public body which makes it arguably less democratic relative to other regions (Brandon 1). Political analysts argued that lack of a democratically elected parliament was a major set back in the region and actions needed to be taken especially due to the increasing volumes of educated population which demanded for increased political participation and accountability.
The human resource in the region is heavily dependent on foreign labor especially due to the low population in Dubai (Noack 32). The labor industry is consequently flooded with foreign skilled and unskilled labor which increases the volume of non national citizens in Dubai (Noack 32). The labor force consists of Western expatriates mainly from Europe intending to establish their own businesses and comprise the high income range in the community, the unskilled expatriates from the Indian subcontinent and mostly perform the blue collar jobs as well as the south Eastern Asians who mainly work in the tourism and service sector further promoting unemployment among the Dubai nationals (Noack 34). In attempt to overcome the problem of widespread unemployment in the region, the government established the policy of ‘emiratisation’ which ensured preferential employment of United Arab Emirates nationals in the private sector and dictated a specific percentage of total employees in the organizations who would be United Arab Emirate nationals (Noack 34).
The workers in Dubai live under very poor conditions despite the fact that they are the same people who are turning the desert into high rise towers and luxury hotels (Fazli 205). These workers live in poorly constructed labor camps and are lowly paid hence increasing their desperation (Fazli 205). Denial of workers rights is especially evident in the construction industry where the rates of suicide have particularly skyrocketed due to frustration of workers as a result of poor wages (Fazli 205).
The suicide rates prompted workers to fight for their rights in 2005 where they protested against the poor treatment of foreign workers through street protests and industrial strikes (Fazli 205). Urban crime consequently emerged as a result of widespread urban poverty which has raised concerns in the region. In order to comply with international labor standards Dubai has joined the international labor organization which promotes social justice and recognizes human and labor rights (Noack 34). Further, the problems in the United Arab Emirates regions render the country vulnerable to various economic shortcomings such as reduction in numbers of the international luxurious tourists which forms a considerable part of the country’s GDP (Davidson 183).
Reasons for Dubai Crisis
In 1954, the Dubai ruler at the time borrowed 400000 pounds from Kuwait in an attempt to clear the Dubai creek as well as to fund the establishment of a port which formed the basic foundation for economic progress in the region (Rivlin par 1). Earlier stages of Dubai’s development were highly facilitated by external borrowing as well as the establishment of the port at Jebel Ali which is currently the largest manmade harbor in the world and the biggest port in the Middle East region (Rivlin par 1).
This led to the emergence industrial area in the region adjacent to the port and the country’s government encouraged foreign investment in the region by providing tax incentives as well as loosening restrictions on movement of funds and easy recruitment of labor which consequently attracted international corporations to open businesses in the region leading to overall development of the region (Rivlin par 1).
In turn, the government continually adopted more liberal policies on various issues in the region in order to encourage foreign companies to venture into the region (Rivlin par 2). In addition, the country established membership with the United States Emirates and this approach enabled the country to achieve dramatic success in transforming the city into thriving city state into an international financial center (Rivlin par 2).
However, the country’s plea to its creditors to extend maturity for their obligation in 2009 sent shock waves in the international financial system as the move indicated the country’s inability to pay its debts (Rivlin par 2). Clearly the economic boom experienced in the region had partly resulted from increase in foreign borrowings with Dubai based corporations being the main borrowers in the international capital markets (Rivlin par 2).
One of the major objectives of Dubai was to attain Abu Dhabi income levels which is its major rival in the United Arab Emirates and is also endowed with huge reserves of oil (Rivlin par 10). The United Arab Emirates lack of transparency in its operations implicated negatively on the economic performance of Dubai since they lacked a clear outline of the economic relationship between the two countries and the relationship became clear through the major corporations conflicts between the two countries (Rivlin par 10).
Despite Abu Dhabi’s impressive financial performance especially due to its large oil reserves, the country offered its struggling counterpart limited financial assistance and this was attributed to the traditional rivalry between the two countries that dates back from the past as well as the United States and Abu Dhabi’s intention to pull Dubai away from Iran (Rivlin par 10). The economic crisis experienced in Dubai was expected to cause huge losses to major corporations and was a clear evidence of the failure of the government’s development strategies that aimed at transforming the region into a liberal economic model (Rivlin par 11)
Dubai, a country that had recently undergone an extra ordinary economic boom started showing evidence of a recessionary bust towards 2009 with one of the largest owned government conglomerate requesting for debt payments extensions (Isaac par 1). This was further evidenced by surging prices in the real estate industry with some of the projects being frozen as a result of persistent debt insecurities (Isaac par 4). The graph below represents the predicted fate of Dubai economy as a result of the financial crisis.
The city of Dubai has experienced remarkable development over the years as evidenced by the development it has achieved from scratch to being one of the most rapidly developing and popular city of the world. It is important to note that despite this successful transformation, the United Arab Emirate country has encountered numerous challenges to achieve this end and the outcome of rapid urbanization has not necessarily resulted in all the desired outcomes.
In fact, we have seen that the country has experienced negative implications that have resulted from rapid industrialization such as the financial crisis of 2009 that threatened to completely destabilize the housing sector and other financial sectors in the economy. The financial crisis experienced by Dubai serves as a lesson to other aspiring regions not to depend heavily on foreign investment and foreign debt as a means of financing the economy since default to pay such debts may send wrong signals to the external world which negatively impact on foreign investment and overall economic performance of the country.
The financial crisis in Dubai threatens to adversely affect Dubai’s businesses overseas leading to major delays or terminations resulting from increased cost of operations. In addition the financial crisis may result in widespread unemployment in Dubai and local and foreign investors may incur huge losses forcing them to withdraw their ventures out of the Dubai’s economy. Further, the financial institutions are expected to suffer crisis during the period. However, the country still hopes to recover from this financial crisis through its similar experience in 1999. However, this remains to e seen since the crisis in 1999 was of lesser intensity than the crisis the country faced in 2009.
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