Runner-up: Jubail Industrial City, Saudi Arabia

Dubai is the winner of fDi’s Middle Eastern City of the Future 2005/06 competition. Time and time again, it has shown what can be achieved when oil resources are invested wisely. Although Dubai’s rapid economic growth began in the 1960s with the first production of oil, the city’s wealth is no longer dependent on natural resources: in 2003, tourism overtook oil revenues as the prime source of income.


Dubai’s annual GDP is now approaching $20bn, with annual FDI inflows of more than $2bn.

Much of the credit for Dubai’s staggering success goes to its late ruler, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, the iron man of Dubai who ensured the region’s oil revenues were deployed to maximum effect. His son, Sheikh Rashid also played a crucial role after his father’s death in 1980 in planning Dubai’s massive expansion from old-world town into thriving metropolis, with excellent communication and industrial infrastructures and a thriving services sector.

Major achievements include the creation of the largest man-made harbour in the world and huge industrial complex, and the creation of a major air travel hub and financial services centre for the entire region.

Dubai’s increasingly sophisticated population has access to an excellent range of services. For example, 39% of households have internet connection and more than 98% of the adult population has a mobile phone. Dubai also won the Best Transport category (see page 38), and top marks for investment incentives and infrastructure projects. The city has long welcomed foreign investors and there are no corporate or personal income taxes.

Dubai has more than a dozen big investment projects scheduled for completion before 2010, representing investment of significantly more than $12bn. Projects include: the $200m expansion of Dubai Cargo Village (completion due in 2010); the $100m International Media Production Zone (completion due in 2005); the $700m Dubai Railway Project (completion due in 2009); the Jumeirah Islands (a residential development of 50 islands); the $700m Dubai Healthcare City Free Zone (completion due in 2010); the Dubai Humanitarian City (due for completion in 2005); the $4.9bn Dubai Land tourism project (completion due in 2006); Dubai International Airport’s $120m Terminal 2 expansion (completion due in 2005); Dubai Maritime City Free Zone, a $160m man-made peninsular; The World residential development (completion due in 2008); the $3bn Palm Islands Project, the largest man-made islands in the world (completion due in 2008); and the $1bn Dubai Marina, which will house 100,000 residents (completion due in 2008). Aside from these projects, Jebel Ali Port is to undergo a $1.2bn expansion, due for completion in 2020.

Runner-up Jubail Industrial City in Saudi Arabia, like Dubai, is attracting big investments. Jubail has 29 plants under construction, two undergoing expansion and 44 at the design stage. The project to create Jubail Industrial City II includes plans for 5500 hectares of new city, of which 3000 hectares is reserved for industrial development. The new city is expected to attract foreign and domestic investment of $35bn and create 55,000 jobs. So far, 26 projects have been inaugurated.