International Airport has a fascinating billboard that welcomes
the world to the land of the future. This is
no experimental prototype community of the future where
for a fee, you view world pavilions as is done at Disneys
EPCOT Center, this is it!
With a per capita income of some US$21,700, and a population
of only 1.2 million, up from half a million 12 years ago,
the economy shifted from heavy dependency on oil, to a status
where oil contributes less than five per cent of GDP.
So what happened here?
Dubai lies in the middle of the United Arab Emirates, a
country that was born 50 years ago, and they discovered
oil 40 years ago. But it was always a trading centre, a
watering hole for the merchant class.
But what is this place?
Yesterday, I looked out my window as the sky became overcast,
and thought I would view the spectacle of rain. But the
leaves swaying in the wind, didnt get wet, instead
everything, including the cars, was being covered in a film
of sand. I was in a sand storm!
That is this place: desert sand full of heat, hot like an
In the Mall of the Emirates
A massive mall complete with a ski facility, the Bedouins
Arabs were beautifully dressed, but the head wrap speaks
to a lifetime of tradition in the desert sands.
I heard accents and languages so far and wide that I wondered
aloud whether the New York subway commute could claim such
diversity as I was gifted to see. And in the interplay of
Islamic and Western clothing, and every combination in between,
was testimony to something else.
I felt as if I was on a film set for the Star Ship Enterprise,
so futuristic is this place, in terms of technology. Even
the car park places in the mall were digitally monitored
and little signs posted the number of spaces available in
Several things juxtapose. They have open airspace, landing
more international carriers than any other airport; they
have 30,000 locals unemployed, while the private sector
employs a foreign-based higher skill set of workers.
Economics at work
So the factors of scarcity, supply and demand, in the economic
equation, come to bear. There is more real estate for rent
and purchase then meets the demand, by far. There is also
a high inflation rate. What pattern will emerge?
In 1817, David Ricardo developed an economic theory about
the Napoleonic wars based on the supply and price of wheat,
in relation to supply and price of agricultural land.
He was able to show how the power shifts from the landlord
to the tenant, and back again.
It would seem that the landlords hold little power now in
Dubai, since there is so much property available, and the
tenants have all the power. If one day a mighty power broker
enters the picture he can buy up a huge slice of the pie,
and reverse the scales.
So whats left for the small man? A little piece of
pie is better than no pie at all!