Burj Dubai's opening is a triumph
Today Dubai celebrates the opening of Burj Dubai, the world's tallest building, as well as the anniversary of the accession of His Highness Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, as Ruler of Dubai.
These twin celebrations mark both the abilities and professional skills of those who have built and managed this extraordinary project, and of Sheikh Mohammed's vision and leadership that allowed the idea to flourish in the first place.
These celebrations follow a shocking year as Dubai has dealt with the global recession which hit its economy and its real estate sector in particular. The long-running eight- or nine-year property boom came to an abrupt end, and the resulting slowdown was very painful for both private- and public-sector companies, and culminated in the highly exaggerated international crescendo of rumour and allegation after the Dubai World debt freeze.
However, Dubai did get its refinancing package in place thanks to the government of Abu Dhabi. Dubai Government bonds were bought by the UAE Central Bank and Abu Dhabi banks, and there was direct support for the Dubai Financial Support Fund. Dubai is now placed to look ahead with confidence as it reverts to its core economic activities as both a regional trading hub and as an emerging global centre of the knowledge economy.
The opening of the Burj Dubai shows that companies are still breaking the mould in Dubai, and are able to surprise and impress the world. The full wonder of the technical achievements in the building of Burj Dubai will only come out over the next few months.
All this happened in Dubai, where Sheikh Mohammed, first as Crown Prince and then as Ruler, has been the driving force behind turning Dubai into a major global centre. In the early 1990s Dubai became the leading regional re-export centre, but the new globalised world was about to require a totally new approach.
Sheikh Mohammed's particular insight was to recognise that Dubai's future needed more than being a regional trading hub. He was determined that Dubai would be ready to take part in the emerging knowledge economy, and by setting up centres of excellence such as Internet City, Media City, Health Care City as well as Dubai International Financial Centre, he helped to shift Dubai's economy onto a different level.
He also took advantage of the long-running boom to build the excellent infrastructure that Dubai now enjoys. The combination of both welcoming the knowledge economy, and massive infrastructure investment have positioned Dubai for decades of growth as it comes through the recession.Monday, January 4, 2010