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The Secret of Dubai’s Success

DUBAI – As governments across the Middle East try to wean themselves off natural resources and build diversified, resilient economies, they should take some lessons from Dubai. It’s a remarkable story.

In less than a generation, Dubai has transformed itself into a major center for investment, commerce, and high-end culture. Although the 2008 global financial crisis hit the city-state hard (owing to its exposure to inflated real-estate assets), it recovered quickly, as evidenced by its bids for events such as the World Expo 2020.

How Dubai managed not only to survive, but to thrive, in the wake of the crisis warrants closer scrutiny. So, this past summer, I began investigating the so-called Dubai model of resilient growth, and the challenges that may lie ahead for it. As part of my research, I conducted more than 40 in-depth interviews with government officials and business elites, and fleshed out my findings with secondary data sources.

Dubai’s growth and resilience is attributable to its “ABS model” of attraction, branding, and state-led development. Just as a car’s anti-lock braking system prevents it from skidding out of control in dangerous situations, Dubai’s three-prong strategy keeps its development agenda on track, even during economic crises.