x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Tale of two cities proves strength of the Emirates

Abu Dhabi and Dubai are both friendly competitors and partners, working together towards a bright future.

The UAE was built on the spirit of unity – the coming together of seven emirates for mutual benefit – and close economic cooperation, especially between the two biggest emirates, is integral to that. However, in a frank speech at the UAE Economic Outlook conference on Monday, minister of economy Sultan Al Mansouri said that there had been a lack of coordination between Abu Dhabi and Dubai in the lead-up to the world financial crisis of 2007-2008. And, he added, “look what happened”.

Mr Al Mansouri stressed that lessons had been learnt after the global crash, which saw Abu Dhabi extend financial aid to its neighbour after a construction boom ran into trouble. The property bubble burst, but the emirates, together, picked up the pieces and moved forward. There are, as Mr Al Mansouri pointed out, very positive signs that the recovery is continuing apace.

While there certainly is some friendly competition between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, cooperation is quietly going on behind the scenes at all levels. Recent examples vary from an arrangement between tourism authorities to promote the two cities as cruise ship destinations and a sea-traffic separation campaign to facilitate movement between ports, to the merger of the two emirates’ aluminium smelters and an agreement to unify the licensing of medical practitioners. Just this week, the Abu Dhabi Government-owned International Petroleum Investment Company said it would sponsor the $1 million Al Quoz Sprint at the Dubai World Cup, the world’s most valuable horse-racing meeting.

The two sprawling cities are also getting closer together in a tangible sense, and moving between them has never been easier. Adding to the many thousands of trips made each day between the emirates by private car, bus and taxi, there will be high-speed rail link, due to open for freight operations in 2017 with passenger services to follow.

Together, Abu Dhabi and Dubai are a formidable partnership: Abu Dhabi, with its vast oil wealth, provides the stability and financial nous, while Dubai provides the entrepreneurial spirit and big ideas that help draw so many people – tourists, jobseekers and investors alike – to the UAE. As long as they progress with the caution that Mr Al Mansouri has identified, and continue to support and complement each other, it will serve the nation well.