I was lucky – as the plane descended I peered through my window at the cityscape below, which stood proud in the crystal-clear Dubai air. I say lucky because I had located the airport on the map and guessed correctly which side of the cabin to book my seat on to make sure I enjoy the view of the coast as we came in to land. The plane glided down gently as I gazed at the artificial islands. I felt like an astronaut (apparently the islands can be seen from orbit).
If we ever live in space, there is bound to be a place like Dubai out there: hostile environment, sand, sun, and saline water. Today’s Dubai could very well be a place from another planet. Its architecture is straight out of a futuristic movie; the scale is overwhelming.
According to The Economist, 85% of its 2 million citizens are foreign nationals. This year’s GDP forecasts: 5%. Last year’s GDP: 5%. 22 special economic zones. Special is the word because, unlike other parts of the Emirates which boast lower taxes, Dubai has actually more relaxed laws. The special financial zone has even its own legal system based on common law. The result: 14% more companies in 2013 and 18% more financial institutions in 2014. The airport where I was to land in a moment handles 70 million passengers a year, the figure soon to rise to 200 million. From the plane I may have also glimpsed the sea port, which every year adds 12 thousand containers to its capacity. It is well on its way to being the biggest sea port in the world soon. Dubai markets itself as a gateway to 2 billion consumers. Er, come again! Gateway to 2 billion consumers – from Africa to the Middle East.
The Chinese are avid consumers of everything Dubai and the other Emirates have on offer. The place is home to 4200 Chinese companies, 256 Chinese trade organizations, and 2500 Chinese trademarks. The Chinese expats number 200 thousand. But the Chinese do not make the list of the top ten countries which bring in nearly 10 billion dollars in direct foreign investment (FDI). Top of the list are UK companies, with 13.2% of the direct foreign investment market share. Next comes India, accounting for 5.8% of FDI, followed by France at 5.6%. European countries close the list, with Switzerland and The Netherlands in 9th and 10th place, according to UNCTAD, cited by Santander.
How about us? There is a token Polish presence, according to the official sources (Kulczyk’s real estate, Canapack Arabcan from Kraków, Telefonica Kraków, Koelner, Solaris). Imports from Poland to the UAE in 2011 were a fraction of world-wide imports, which total 200 billion dollars. According to Poland’s Foreign Office statistics, Poland exported just under 477 million dollars worth of goods to the Emirates in 2014. A very modest 0.2%. Too bad we didn’t manage a bit more, with Dubai being such a magnet!
The closer we were to touch-down, the more I wondered if all of this was sustainable.
In the meantime, some further reading:
Foreign Office Report On Trade With The Emirates:
Trade statistics by ING – particularly interesting graph showing demand for imports:
Short report by Santander on investment in the Emirates (BIZ) – how much it is worth and how to do it:
Interesting infographics about higher education in Dubai: