For example, the world’s largest petrochemical complex has attracted more than $46bn of investment to date and Jubail is now responsible for 6%-7% of the world petrochemical market.

Jubail is home to a long and growing list of foreign joint ventures, capturing almost 50% of the country’s total foreign investment. Last year, the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority gave the go-ahead for five projects involving foreign investment of $2.8bn. Recent significant investments include those by Sina Petrochemical Co, and joint ventures between Bassel International Petroleum Corp and Sahara Petroleum Corp, and Acetex and Tasnee.

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Runner-up Dubai’s GDP growth of more than 6.5% in both 2002 and 2003, and FDI inflows in excess of $2bn, mark it out for strong economic performance. Elsewhere in the Middle East, double-digit GDP growth in Morocco’s Tangier-Tetouan region, which includes the country’s second major industrial city, and in Muscat in Oman, also impressed the judges. Like Muscat, Tangier’s significant levels of FDI have spurred economic growth in recent years.

Iran’s capital city Tehran also picked up points for its economic potential with an average GDP growth rate of between 6% and 7% over the past five years and $620m of inward investment in 2004. Recent foreign projects in Tehran include production plants for Renault and Unilever, and various large-scale housing and construction projects by Germany’s Concorde Building Construction group.