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Tue 24 Nov 2009 11:41 AM

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A template for success

Sulaiman Al Fahim on why he thinks Dubai is still the city that others aspire to be.

Under the leadership of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai has established itself as the business capital of the Middle East.

It is the prime example of a modern city. Dubai has a strong economy and is an open society. What has taken other cities centuries to achieve, Dubai has accomplished in the past decade.

Dubai, under the vision and work of Sheikh Mohammed, has become a modern economy. The government has invested heavily in infrastructure. They have built a first-class port, airport and airline; created lightly regulated enterprise zones to foster the development of new industries and attracted foreign firms.

The mix of infrastructure, economic freedom and tolerance is paying dividends as multinationals are increasingly selecting Dubai as their Middle Eastern base.

Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has also helped foster a positive business environment in the region and created jobs in the non-real estate sector by helping young entrepreneurs in promoting the individual commercial spirit among Arab nationals.

By fostering a positive business environment, there are more successful Arab entrepreneurs today in Dubai than ever before.

Dubai has established itself as a diversified economic hub in the region. Its port continues to be one of the busiest in the world. Dubai has a tax-free environment and access to the richest energy region in the world.

Its free trade zones remove the usual barriers that discourage multinationals from setting up operations in a developing country like Dubai. Within the International Financial Centre, which includes a stock exchange, foreign firms can own 100 percent of their operations and pay no tax on income or profits.

Similarly relaxed rules apply in Dubai's internet and media zones. Examples of successful projects in these tax free zones include Dubai Internet City whose tenants include: Dell, Siemens, HP, Microsoft, Oracle and Cisco Systems and Dubai Media City, which is now home to branches of CNN, Reuters and Dow Jones, amongst others.

Another crucial factor in Dubai's transformation, along with the growth of its airport, was its promotion of an "open skies" policy. Not only has Dubai been allowed increased interconnection with the rest of the world, but it has also brought with it demand for Dubai's goods and services.

Tourism has also accelerated and helped Dubai become a place to see and be seen, with over 270 hotels and 30 shopping malls, bringing in millions of visitors annually. Dubai has become a premier luxury vacation destination.Like any major city, Dubai has had recent economic troubles with regard to its real estate market.

Despite these issues, Dubai's vast multi-faceted economy allows everyone to rest assured that Dubai's economy will continue to grow.

As General Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum recently stated at a major forum: "If you do not change, you will be changed," urging Arab states to look beyond casting blame and to focus on seeking solutions to revive its economies and solve domestic strife.

Dubai should indeed be the model its neighbours seek to emulate. By promoting investment opportunities and in creating a welcoming business environment that provides a safe haven for investors, Dubai will continue to rise and will serve as a shining example of the modern city that has not yet reached the pinnacle of its potential."

Sulaiman Al Fahim is chairman of the Arab Union for Real Estate Development

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