When the late Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum ordered the construction of Jebel Ali port – the largest man-made harbour in the world – in the 1970s, the project was described as a ‘white elephant’ given the costs and because there was no perceived need for it at the time. However, years later it became an international hub and played a vital role in Dubai’s success.
And when His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, launched at the end of the 1990s a series of initiatives and mega projects, starting from Dubai Media, Internet and Healthcare Cities as well as the Dubai Airport expansion, the “bubble” had become a constant description in reports on Dubai’s economy.
But the volume and speed of progress have continued to astonish observers year after year, and the bubble has not burst. Rather the emirate’s economy has become a model for successful diversification from oil. Finance, tourism and service sectors turned into engines of growth and led Dubai’s economy to global prominence.
A senior economic planner in Dubai said: “Many of those casting doubt used to look at each project separately and not the overall image where all projects integrate to give the local economy an exceptional momentum and allow it to serve the region as a whole.”
“This success has been based on a vision that makes the breaking of new ground a permanent target and an approach based on the highest criteria to the extent that Sheikh Mohammed has turned into a symbol of change and development not only at the regional level but also in the world.”
So what are the limits of Dubai and the UAE’s ambition? When Sheikh Mohammed has been repeatedly asked this question from the beginning of the decade until today, he says: “What has been achieved only represents 10 per cent of my vision.”
And while the UAE tomorrow marks the second anniversary of Sheikh Mohammed’s ascension as the Vice-President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, observers of His Highness’s march realise that what has so far been achieved only forms the tip of an iceberg.
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