With so much expectations resting on major investments in Abu Dhabi; there are both the supporters and the skeptics; the former standing their ground and waiting for the good times to roll and the latter standing by even away so as to avoid the debris of the big collapse they have unfoundedly predicted even rumored!
We are speaking of a city that has been dubbed one of the richest cities in the world here… One that has the second-largest economy in the GCC after Saudi Arabia and mostly a city that produces 97% of its country’s oil output with so much reserve to last another 100 years! Whether the people of Abu Dhabi go to work today or not, they are pumping more than 2.7 million barrels of oil a day…
They have come a long way from being the pearl divers they once were and even then, they were known to have the finest pearls in the region. This may be luck but it’s what you do with what you are given that counts… Yes the billions of petro-dollars were inherited from their land but look at what they are doing with it! In addition to the billions of dollars going towards development in shipyard, seaport, airport expansions, healthcare, education, road upgrade and transportation, technology, manufacturing and deployment, venture capital even art and culture – basically all the makings of a flourishing city and a solid infrastructure! They are also building the world’s first sustainable city… Which other city can claim to have developed a self-sufficient project with renewable energy powered namely by the sun that has zero carbon emissions? Masdar is a little spot that will become home to 50,000 people and will set an example for where focus needs to be: evolution!
Which government on this planet is investing USD27billion into a Culture Island a.k.a. Saadiyat Island where names like Louvre and Gugenheim will soon become part of household conversations? I can only imagine how this will impact generations to come that will be exposed to such initiatives. Sure there has been major controversy around the “franchising” of these institutions with numerous international publications hinting at the failure of such projects, but I think the world has missed the point on this one… Here is an investment that for once placed the core focus on culture rather than profit – how is that not commendable?! To put it simply, Abu Dhabi is emerging for the right reasons and will soon be the epiphany of contemporary culture in the region.
When looking towards the future, Abu Dhabi has its eye set on calculated growth over the coming years. Anyone who is familiar with this place is no stranger to the infamous strategy 2030 that encourages diversification into various non-oil sectors. Forecasts estimate that the population of Abu Dhabi will increase by about 80% from the current 1.5 million and reaching an approximate 3.1 million by 2030. It also includes plans to reel in about 2.7 million tourists a year in the next five years.
True it has a highly concentrated economy given that its most dominant sector is oil and any fluctuation in oil prices will have a significant impact on its future but let’s face it, the world is not even close to substituting its reliance on oil anytime soon and chances are that by the time it does, Abu Dhabi will have figured out a way to alternate gracefully!
I might sound PRO-Abu Dhabi at this point – I confess – this is from growing up here and witnessing the long-term vision in action.
Having lived here for more than 20 years, on and off, I find that the people of the UAE particularly Abu Dhabi have a trait that has probably been the most integral to their success this far: they take their time! Whilst this may be frustrating at times, it turned out to work to their advantage. They have observed as the region emerged, then got submerged and learned from every single challenge faced by the consequences of rapid growth and for which the antidote was indeed to take it easy…
The Arab region has been famous for great success in the past, but mostly for its turmoil and political instabilities. I being Lebanese continuously wish that my people were more focused on true growth and shudder by the thought of ongoing political meetings that bear no fruit whatsoever. When you think of Abu Dhabi again, think of a place where the people have their priorities straight!
Published in ArabAd, November 2011 Volume 21 number 11