Most people have seen the incredible pictures of Dubai’s skyline, heard about the huge financial business that takes place there and probably seen a Bond or Mission Impossible movie that had a fight seen on one of their incredible buildings. However, most people do not know about the transformation that the city has been through.
Dubai has gone through two amazing transitions. The first was from a fishing town to one of the most amazing cities in the world. In 1962 the city was home to just 50,000 people. Today there are more than 3 million. This transition was largely driven by oil. Dubai and many other cities had huge amounts of oil reserves that in effect made the cities incredibly wealthy and allowed them to change overnight. If you consider the closest city to you and how little it has likely changed since 1962 you will understand.
Consider the Burj Khalifa the world’s largest tower that dwarfs other tall buildings in the world. Consider still, that it will soon be surpassed by the Dubai Creek Tower. It appears that only Dubai is able to compete with Dubai. However, the second transition that Dubai has gone through, that few people have noticed, is its diversification. While once a city dependent on oil, it has now diversified completely. Today no more than 1% of Dubai’s GDP comes from oil. When you compare this to other cities in the region it shows just how well Dubai has taken advantage of its position. Oil made up nearly 40% of Abu Dhabi’s GDP in 2017.
Despite this transformation, most businesses in the UAE do link back in some way to oil. Even if Dubai has successfully moved away from oil on the surface level, oil money still funds a lot of business that goes on there. This is a concern for the country of UAE and the city of Dubai. Today growth rates in Dubai are slowing off the back of lower oil prices. Construction projects are being delayed or canceled and the city is moving at a slower pace than it has seen for twenty years.
At present Dubai is desperately trying to attract more investment to lift the country out of its slump. Whether it can return to its incredible growth rates or not remains to be seen. There are many people who reside in Dubai purely for incredible wages and opportunities. If these disappear, the city will face an exodus that it won’t be able to soften and the economy will fall further.