Measuring Abu Dhabi’s liveability using the global liveable city index (GLCI)

Publication Date11 July 2016
Date11 July 2016
AuthorKhee Giap Tan,Sujata Kaur
SubjectPublic policy & environmental management,Environmental technology & innovation
Measuring Abu Dhabis
liveability using the global
liveable city index (GLCI)
Khee Giap Tan and Sujata Kaur
Asia Competitiveness Institute, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy,
National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to use a newly developed Global Liveable Cities Index (GLCI),
to assess how Abu Dhabi ranks among global cities. The paper sheds some light on the strengths and
weaknesses associated with the citys emergence as a global city, as identified by the index.
Design/methodology/approach This paper makes use of a new measure of liveability the
GLCI to rank the world's major cities. The GLCI advances the measurement of the Liveability
construct by taking into account the multi-dimensional sensibility of diverse groups of ordinary
persons across 64 cities. The paper also conducts policy simulations to help aid city planners invest in
areas with low scores in the GLCI.
Findings The results from the an alysis show Abu Dhab i as a city that has a lot more p otential
than what most conven tional city benchmarking exercises h ave revealed. It is a city with immense
potential in the region by not just being the driver of growth but also being a nodal center for
attraction of glob al talent. It is fast grow ing into a city of opportu nity and already sati sfies the
characteristics of an emerging global city with a lot of regional attention. The empirical results also
find that its potential has been clearly under-rated by many existing studies and indices primarily
because of their narrow scope in measuring liveability. The GLCI results brought together multiple
indicators to devise an in dex that is strongly based on a combination of an alytical and philosophical
values. Taking stock of the rankings of Abu Dhabi using the GLCI so far as well as the policy
simulations, one can conclude that Abu Dhabi has multiple strengths as an aspiring global city. The
results also indicate that one area that has been consistently identified as lacking in Abu Dhabi is
that of environmen tal sustainability .
Originality/value While cities have always played a historic role in powering economic growth in
some form or the other, the scale of expansions and the speed at which it is happening today appears
unprecedented. While a considerable number of indices benchmarking cities exist, they are rather
narrow in scope. None of them model liveability from the perspective of an ordinary person with
multi-dimensional sensibilities toward issues like economic well-being, social mobility, personal
security, political governance, environmental sustainability and aesthetics for a more representative
coverage of major cities around the world. These factors are critical measures of liveabilityof a city
that in turn elevates it to the status of a global city. This paper thus makes an original contribution to
the literature on understanding global cities by applying a newly developed GLCI to assess how Abu
Dhabi ranks among global cities. The paper sheds some light on the strengths and weaknesses
associated with the citys emergence as a global city, as identified by the index.
Keywords Abu Dhabi, Liveability, City benchmarking, Economic competitiveness
Paper type Research paper
1. Motivation and literature
A central feature of rising urbanization in the last few decades has been the growing
significance of cities as a locus of economic activity. With globalization leading to the
intensification of cross-border mobility not just of goods and financial capital but also of
labor and human talent, there has also been a marked rise in interconnectivity among
cities, primarily due to advancements in transportation and telecommunication technology.
World Journal of Science,
Technology and Sustainable
Vol. 13 No. 3, 2016
pp. 205-223
©Emerald Group Publis hing Limited
DOI 10.1108/WJSTSD-11-2015-0054
The current issue and full text archive of this journal is available on Emerald Insight at:
Abu Dhabis
A combination of attractive infrastructure and supporting regulatory environments has
helped cities compete for global talent, resources and capital, positioning themselves as a
platform for innovations to occur and ideas to grow.
There has been a burgeoning academic literature following the influential
contributions of Florida (2002) that has recognized cities as the primary drivers of
innovation and economic growth[1]. Globally, several urbancenters have emerged as the
hubs of creativity and innovation as they attract the best and brightest minds, fostering
creative thinking and expression (Landry, 2000). Thus global cities, by being home to
the creative class(Florida, 2002), consistently competeto attract the best human talent
to become hubs of creativity and innovation that in turn generate economic growth.
As Florida (2002) further notes, cities are propelled by the amalgamation of diverse and
talented individuals, driven largely by the employment opportunities and educational
facilities that they offer. Notwithstanding the benefits of exogenous factors such as
strategic location endowments and path dependence from historical industrial
developments, urban centers offering higher quality services become more prosperous.
While cities have always played a historic role in powering economic growth in
some form or the other, the scale of expansions and the speed at which it is happening
today appears unprecedented. The process of globalization has paved the way for the
emergence of what has been referred to as the global cities.Subsequently, there has
been a surge in the literature on global cities particularly since the mid-1980s.
The emphasis of this growing literature has been on the rise of these cities to their
global statusprimarily on account of the high concentration of the worlds financial
and other related industries in those cities a by-product of rapidly increasing
economic and financial globalization of the world economy (Ancien, 2011).
Despite the proliferation of papers on this subject, it is still difficult to exactly define
what a global city is. However, a broadly accepted definition based on a common theme
that runs through the various papers suggests that a global city is one that is []ina
position to realize the economic coordination of complex activities at a global scale
(Bourdeau-Lepage and Huriot 2006, p. 1), with the emphasis being on the coordination
function, which is deemed a major feature of global cities. It is by fulfilling that role of
coordination that these cities differentiate themselves from the rest and gain their
strategic position in the global economy (Bourdeau-Lepage an dHuri ot, 2006). In one of the
well-cited works in the field, Sassen (2005) succinctly summarizes what a global city is:
Global cities around the world are the terrain where a multiplicity of globalisation processes
assume concrete, localised forms. These localised forms are, in good part, what globalisation
is about. Recovering place means recovering the multiplicity of presences in this landscape.
The large city of today has emerged as a strategic site for a whole range of new types of
operations political, economic, cultural,subjective. It is one of the nexi where the formation
of new claims, by both the powerful and the disadvantaged, materialises and assumes
concrete form (p. 40).
In short, global cities act as key nodal points in the organization of the world economy
as well as serve as prime and strategic locations and marketplaces as well as a
production sites for leading finance and specialised indust ries, including the
production of innovations(Sassen, 1994, p. 4).
In addition, one can also relate to how the quality of placeargument a la Florida
(2002) matters in the context of a city establishing itself as a global city. Florida (2002)s
original theory of creative class emphasized on three Tsof economic development
encompassing technology, talent and tolerance, which are essential ingredients of the

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