Leading businessmen in Dubai believe that stability and continuity of management are the best foundations for diversified development. Stuart Arnold talked to three leading figures in the Dubai business community.
WELL-ESTABLISHED as the leading commercial and trading centre in the Gulf, with industrial aspirations to match, Dubai is making a major effort to focus attention on its attractions as a base for doing business in markets which have now largely recovered from the chaos of the Gulf war. Dubai consciously projects a feeling of organisations working together for the common good. In an arena where public image and awareness is often of paramount importance, Dubai has been noticeably successful in several areas.
Continuity in development strategy and implementation is seen as a critical factor. Three key personalities have been influential in their positions for a long period of time - Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, chairman of the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority; Maurice Flanagan, group managing director of Emirates Airlines; and Abdul Rahman al Mutaiwee, director-general of the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
When the Jebel Ali Free Zone was launched, it was modelled mainly on Singapore and Hong Kong. However, the Far East as a whole, and in particular the "free zones" or "export processing zones" of Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand were all studied.
Sultan Ahmed bin Sulayem, who has been in charge of the Jebel Ali Free Zone since its inception, stresses that there has never been any complacency. "We are happy to learn from others," he says. "We are not proud." A recent example has been the idea of an exclusive area for high-technology companies, similar to the development at Hingohu outside Taipei.
The complex covers 100 square kilometres to the south of Dubai, and also includes the Dubai Ports Authority terminal of Jebel Ali, the largest man-made harbour in the world. This is a prime example of the emirate's aim of economic diversification away from the original oil-based economy.
Sultan Ahmed has succeeded in attracting some key international companies seeking a Middle East base for manufacturing, assembly, warehousing, distribution and re-export. Meanwhile, the merger of the two ports of Jebel Ali and Mina Rashid now provides 102 deep water berths that are supported by eleven container cranes capable of accommodating all vessels currently using the UAE ports.
The Free Zone attracted almost Dh1bn in new investment last year with a...