Dubai's Formula of Tax Free Economic Zones and Mass Tourism Doesn't Work

Joshua Hammer describes his visit to the financially straitened emirate where he found "deserted highways, empty hotel rooms, miles of unsold residential and office space."

Although the Dubai still has considerable resources, companies engaged in international trade and an evolved tourism sector, the financial crisis still has a stultifying hold on the city. It is likely that the collapse of its real estate industry has cost Dubai in the region of "25 percent of its economic activity."

Hammer neatly explains how the real estate boom was kept going by a "Dickensian labor system that was bound at some point to self- destruct. At the height of the boom, tens of thousands of Southeast Asian laborers, banned by Dubai's labor laws from forming unions, were put to work for eighty hours a week to build the Dubai fantasy and obliged to live in squalid residential camps in the desert."

The outlook is no better. Most analysts "believe that it will take five years for building to begin anew in Dubai, and they question whether the city can retain its allure meanwhile."

If Dubai's "formula of tax-free economic zones and mass tourism doesn't work," a long-time resident explains, "people who have been emulating it throughout the Middle East will say, ‘What the hell do we do now?' There are a lot of angry young people out there, and the whole region will go up in smoke in ten years if they can't find employment for them."

Full Story: Goodbye to Dubai


Prepare for the AICP* Exam

Join the thousands of students who have utilized the Planetizen AICP* Exam Preparation Class to prepare for the American Planning Association's AICP* exam.
Starting at $245
AICP CTP Storefont Display

The first online AICP* CTP exam prep class

Are you ready to take the AICP* Certified Transportation Planner exam?
Priced at $245 for May exam!
City Plate table setting

New Arrival! City Plates

City downtown cores printed on gorgeous decorative collectible porcelain plates.
Book cover of Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning

Contemporary Debates in Urban Planning

Featuring thought-provoking commentary and insights from some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in the field.