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« Ed Burtynsky's beautifully monstrous "Manufactured landscapes" | Main | Tips from the top conference liveblogger »

July 29, 2007


Mesmerizing... Newsweek International(http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/20011283/site/newsweek/from/RSS/) is saying that this time around, oil money pouring in the Gulf states is being smartly invested. Not like in the 70's. And despite still huge flaws in the scientific education infrastructure. So could that be true?... Or is it just another mirage in the desert?

C'est vraiment impressionnant. Je suppose que Shanghai l'est tout aussi.

@Julia : Dubai is definitely not a mirage - altough there's a beautiful hotel so-called "The Mirage" somewhere on Jumeira Beach ;-)
Actually, Dubai is part of the global project envisionned by United Arab Emirates Founder & Ruler H.H. Sheik Zayed back in the early 70's. Make the UAE the leading country in the region, by overcoming its dependance on the oil to become a Tourism, Business, Finances and Industry (soon) place of choice.
I've had the chance to go there for the first time in 1998, with regular stays every 3 months or so until 2005. I can confirm that the strategy imagined by the Ruling Families of Abu Dhabi and Dubai was the right one : first, attract tourists (Burj-Al-Arab hotel, Jumeira Beach...), then create business-friendly zones (Jebel Ali, Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City...), make it work and tell the World, then build amazing projects (The Palm Islands, the Dome, etc.) to attract investors, then create the most powerful financial place in the region, and last, start attracting industries (see the Silicon Oasis) to make the UAE a self-sustainable country, able to compete against the Asian icons such as Singapore and Hong Kong.

Keep in mind, Dubai was a fishermen's village of just a hundred souls back in the early 60's. No wonder why the Scientific Education sector is relatively poor at the moment. However, see the Knowledge Village, which is located just the street accross Dubai Internet City (sounds familiar ? Silicon Valley : Standford and El Camino...), and watch the job postings at the Emirates University.

You see, as a 45+ yo french guy, I do really suffer from the lack of vision of our Presidents since the 70's - save Mr. Sarkozy, as he just started ;-) When I see what a man with a vision can accomplish with his country in the very same timeframe, I'm sincerely puzzled, and admirative.

There's no mirage. Perhaps just a bubble ;-)

@ Marc: thanks for the historical and current evolution context. The hint that something might slightly be aloof here - wouldnt you yourself mention a 'bubble'? - is that the long term developmental path at play here is not the most bulletproof. Usually, long term development is either based on industrial growth with low-paid well-educated workforce (i.e. Europe & US in the XIX cent., Asia in the XX-XXIst cent.) or on scientific clusters around university centers and/or strong public R&D initiative (i.e. California, Israel, Singapore). Using tourism as the initial asset to start-up sustainable growth(as we see in the Carribean, for example) doesnt seem to have been as conclusive as the above-mentionned models. So the fact that Dubai ends up where other countries have started for their development (i.e., primary and secondary education efforts) is to some respects a bit dubious. Of course, there is the Las Vegas model - but then Las Vegas only exists but because there is a US economy, with its techno-industrial immense strength. So far the underlying factors for Dubai's growth still seem the oil money from the Persian gulf - and to some respect the continuing replacing of Lebanon as the new Swiss of the Middle East - which was Lebanon situation before the burst of the civil war. Which was in itself still contingent to oil money... So to put it in a nutshell: the bubble, if any, smells oil !...

As per France, since I'm writing myself from the US, I'd simply say that it's hard to compare two countries at two very different development stages. Dont forget that, at the end of the day, Dubai and the Gulf owe their money to the dubious energy policies of the West - though actually France, with its nuclear development plan in the 70's, has been a bit wiser than the US on that particular subject. I'm not sure the Entertainment growth model of Dubai could be a good example for France (though it has definitively local and exportable assets, such as the Louvre Museum !..).I'd rather France embrace more forcefully the R&D Economy development model at play in other parts of the Western world.

@Julia : You got my hint on the *bubble* right. As of today, Dubai growth (1) is kind of artificial, because it's mainly based on Tourism. Any terrorist attack signed Al Qaeda would ruin the economy for some time (2)...
Nevertheless, the Government pushes its efforts on Industries, in order to create a sustainable ground for the future.

Plus, maybe we shall simply consider Dubai as the World-largest leisure resort, which it is from a certain perspective. It is also a gigantic field trial for numerous industries, from Design/Architecture/Construction to Telecoms to Consumer Electronics to Retail to whatever involved in making your life easier.

About France : I'm not saying that we should have become a Disneyland too, although our economy relies more on Consumers than Industry today :-( Travel France by the highways : you'll be surprised to see how this country is now modelled on the same scheme everywhere. "Desert" areas in the countryside, then when approaching the next big city you start seeing lots of logistic/transports hubs, then residential areas, then commercial areas, then residential/downtown. Industries ? No more, except Automotive and Aerospace/Defense, located in very few places.
My point was : for the last 30 years, the French Governments have done nothing but applying patches here and there, with absolutely no long term vision (that's one of the main characters of the French : they don't see further than their own nose)
We were pioneers and leaders in Telecoms : gone. Garnment/Clothing industry : dead. Steel/Chemical industries : dead. Etc. All of our key assets are gone, save our beautiful country itself ;-)

(1) I distinguish Dubai from the rest of the UAE, as Dubai is an open emirate compared to Abu Dhabi and the others, in terms of religion, culture, etc. In summary, you know you are in a Muslim country when you go to a restaurant in Abu Dhabi, whilst you wouldn't even notice the religious aspects in Dubai, save the mosques everywhere and the absence of topless women on the beaches.

(2) Probabilities for such an attack are low. I won't comment on that point, because I'd like to keep the possibility to move to Dubai open ;-)

About Dubai and the sudden changes of ist landscape : see the photos of the Sheraton Jumeira Beach hotel which I recently posted on my blog [http://fibergeneration.typepad.com/welcome/2007/03/chicken_shawarm.html]. When I first stayed there in September '98, the Sheraton was the very last building of Jumeira (hence of Dubai), standing there like Ayers Rock in the middle of the Desert. Today, the hotel is a lilliputian in the middle of the Marina's skycrapers...

@Marc: Your Sheraton Jumeira pictures on your blog are absolutely stunning - worth another Gulliver's trip !

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