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Sat 30 Jun 2007 12:00 AM

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Taking a different approach

An unspoken rivalry between Dubai and Abu Dhabi has seen the latter seek some new ways to build, says Angela Giuffrida.

It would be easy to suggest that all Abu Dhabi wants to do is copy Dubai. After all, Dubai was the first out of the two to pioneer reclaimed islands, and Abu Dhabi soon levelled up to its neighbour's Burj Al Arab with Emirates Palace.

The two may not have openly set out to compete but there seems to be an unspoken rivalry that has left the UAE capital questioning why Dubai is the one grabbing all the attention.

When speaking to a contractor in the emirate last week, he admitted that part of the drive towards its growth was because it felt embarrassed about being a capital city (and one with its own money to spend) that wasn't being talked about much.

Abu Dhabi may not be driving in fifth gear, he said, but over the next 10 years it would evolve into a city unrecognisable from today. He envisaged a well-organised haven with the ‘most modern lifestyle' being enjoyed by all.

And how was this going to be achieved? By doing things differently from Dubai.

Apart from the recently announced master plan to ensure that all infrastructure is in place before projects get started, another trend emerging from the emirate is partnering.

Joint ventures have traditionally been based around industry rivals pooling their expertise and resources in order to perform better in what is usually a highly competitive industry.

But what we're seeing in Abu Dhabi is developers banishing time-honoured methods of procurement in favour of forming alliances to ensure that a project gets done, whether that be with contractors or building material suppliers.

Capacity issues have largely prompted the move, along with the mammoth task of meeting deadlines that could span decades.

While it's good that integration among all partners is beginning at the design stage, it will be interesting to see just how successful the relationships are, particularly in a region where business is usually performed in closely guarded quarters. A culture of mutual trust needs to be instilled from the start - and maintaining that momentum for a project that takes 10 years could be the biggest challenge of all.

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