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Sat 18 Oct 2008 04:00 AM

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GCC must look East says London ex-Mayor

GCC cities should target inward investment from Asia rather than the United States to continue fuelling the construction boom.

GCC cities should target inward investment from Asia rather than the United States to continue fuelling the construction boom, according to former Mayor of London Ken Livingstone.

Livingstone also said that the 25-year economic strategy he devised in his time as mayor "rested on the assumption that there was an irreversible shift in the global economy from the US and Europe to Asia."

Outspoken Livingstone made his comments at Cityscape Dubai, stating that events of the past year had demonstrated that the shift was indeed irreversible.

"America just isn't investing in the level that it needs to avoid its economy losing market share, but China is investing at that level," he said.

"Here's Dubai sitting mid-way in between these two great economic powers. I would certainly be looking to the one that's rising rather than the one that's declining."

Earlier this month the US congress passed a US $700 billion bail-out package in a bid to stave off economic collapse, but the former mayor said it may not be enough to avoid a repeat of the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Livingstone, who won plaudits for his progressive transport policies during his eight-year tenure as London mayor, also said that all GCC cities must adopt effective public transit systems if they wished to develop into global financial centres - one of the principal drivers behind the construction boom.

"If you are going to have the finance and business district built upon people coming by car it's going to be too dispersed to really function," he said.

"So my advice would be - get everybody (onto public transport) as rapidly as possible."

Though the Dubai Metro is on course to open its first phase in September 2009, metro projects in other GCC cities are still in the planning stages.

Livingstone also emphasised the importance of training if Dubai is to be prepared to exploit the shift in global economic might from West to East.

"What Dubai needs is to understand what the world economy will look like in 25 years' time, what industries will have risen and fallen, and what it can be as part of that new global alignment," he said.

Last September, the British University in Dubai began the region's first Master of Science in Systems Engineering to train students for a wide range of industrial sectors including construction.

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