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Sheikh Mohammed and Dubai Development Case Study

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Updated: Oct 29th, 2020

Sheikh Mohammed’s Goals, Hopes, and Motivation

Prior to all the innovations and breakthroughs that made Dubai one of the most prosperous world-class cities, it used to be a small and quiet fishing village of which no one knew. For its current success, Dubai has to thank one leader – His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. In order to maintain the rapid growth of the city that was known for its weak infrastructure, Sheikh Mohammed had to manage a variety of factors. Some of them were cultural changes based on the inflow of immigrant workers, the changing city landscape that needed planning, a number of new businesses sprouting in the new conditions, and the transforming political environment.

According to Sheikh Mohammed, he sees his primary duty as a leader in bringing “security, stability, welfare, and progress” to his people (Mayo et al.,.16). Moreover, Sheikh Mohammed admitted that he wants everyone in the UAE “to benefit and to be of benefit at the same time” (Mayo et al. 16). These statements indicate that Sheikh Mohammed is motivated by the wellbeing of his people. In other words, he is working for the sake of his country and not for his own benefit.

Judging from the actions of Sheikh Mohammed, it is possible to notice that he is passionate about continuing what his father, Sheikh Rashid, had started. Namely, Sheikh Mohammed put much effort into developing the economy of Dubai, leveraging its rich supply of oil. The ruler also focused on opening Dubai for visitors, many of whom were ready to bring money to the region. Sheikh Mohammed increased the circulation of capital by increasing the circulation of people in Dubai and creating a powerful tourism infrastructure, establishing the first airline, and improving ports and an airport. It appears that he is mainly motivated by his vision of an even more prosperous and successful city. He is focused on developing a far-reaching vision, which he preserves as his unique driver towards innovation.

Ever since the rapid growth of Dubai began, Sheikh Mohammed has been aware of the potential challenges that such fast development could bring. At present, Sheikh Mohammed is hoping that his vision will continue to motivate him and his team of professionals to handle the difficulties that Dubai is facing due to the speedy expansion in multiple areas.

Sheikh Mohammed’s Outcomes

Following his father’s footsteps in terms of diversification of the UAE economy, Sheikh Mohammed focused on the minimization of the country’s economic dependency from oil as a source of income. In fact, the ruler was highly successful in this endeavor and managed to facilitate a massive decrease in the GDP percentage brought by the oil industry. Namely, within about a decade, this number dropped from 50 to 5 percent (Mayo et al. 6).

Expanding business and trade as major sources of income, the ruler of Dubai created flexible conditions for business in order to attract foreign direct investment and business people. These conditions were based on the exploitation of two large pools of cheap labor – Pakistan and India, the absence of a minimum wage threshold, and bendable labor regulations. For businesses, such an environment was rather convenient; however, it provided no protection of the workers’ rights. As a result, alongside foreign investors and businesses, these conditions also attracted a large number of poor migrant laborers ready to perform unmerciful manual work for low salaries leading to the occurrence of various social concerns (Stephenson and Ali-Knight 278-279).

Additionally, facing a clash of the Middle Eastern and Western business views and practices, Sheikh Mohammed created a free zone that did not adhere to Islamic law (Mayo et al. 7). Attempting to strengthen the development of the tourism industry and be able to host more visitors, Sheikh Mohammed expanded the coastline of Dubai by building multiple artificial islands. This resulted in a unique and successful project; however, the damage caused to the environment due to the land reclamation must have been huge (Alderman). The same can be said about the other expansions resulting in fast population growth in the area.

All in all, Sheikh Mohammed’s outcomes matched his intent, but his intention to achieve progress fast led to a number of negative consequences. Practically, the prosperity of Dubai, as well as the diversification of its economy, was created at the cost of nature, poor laborers, and the cultural unity of the region. The ruler had a vision of what needed to be built, and all the losses and damage produced in the process were treated as necessary sacrifices even though they could have been avoided should the leader have opted for a less rapid change.

Sheikh Mohammed as a Business Leader and a Political Ruler

Most leaders, regardless of their spheres, are criticized throughout their careers and projects. Unfortunately, in the modern world, any kind of progress or production inevitably results in serious damage to the environment or local communities and individual workers. This is especially the case when it comes to large and very ambitious projects. The rapid development of Dubai throughout the last several decades was one such project. Driven by the ambition of its leaders and Sheikh Mohammed in particular, the city transformed drastically, which caused significant environmental and social impacts.

In that way, it seems that in his attempts to build Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed succeeded as a businessman but underperformed as a political leader. This tendency occurred because, in the development of the city, it’s economy and business advancements were seen as top priorities, whereas social and environmental concerns were majorly ignored and treated as insignificant and unimportant outcomes.

Moreover, the rapid growth of business drove the inflow of the population to the city, exhausting its scarce supplies of water and electricity (Alderman). Looking at the results produced by Sheikh Mohammed, one could state that it is impossible for a single person to do the jobs of a business and a political leader simultaneously. Business and politics are two spheres that often clash as the latter regulates the former. If only Sheikh Mohammed chose to play both roles equally, his results might have been very different. However, he made an emphasis on the development of the sphere of business, which took away from his performance of a political ruler.

The Dubai of Now

Today, Dubai is struggling to overcome multiple environmental challenges that appeared due to its rapid growth. Sustainability presents one of the most pressing concerns for the city. Practically, faced by the need to manage a huge population that requires large portions of natural resources such as fresh drinking water and electricity on a daily basis, the leaders of Dubai are looking for new opportunities to expand their supplies. Additionally, more challenges are presented by the maintenance of the infrastructure that is strained by the expanding population.

In regard to both water and electricity, Dubai needs to rely on sustainable sources because turning to nuclear power would be highly dangerous, knowing the geopolitical instability in the Middle East. Also, Dubai’s leaders could participate in the discussion concerning sustainable growth as mentors for the leaders of other countries of the region willing to pursue speedy development. Lessons learned by the ruler of Dubai and the other authorities have to inspire them to seek progress in sustainable maintenance of what they have created through the last decades.

Works Cited

Alderman, Liz. “The New York Times. 2010. Web.

Mayo, Anthony J. et al. “Sheikh Mohammed and the Making of “Dubai Inc.”.” Harvard Business School. 2010.

Stephenson, Marcus L. and Jane Ali-Knight. “Dubai’s Tourism Industry and Its Societal Impact: Social Implications and Sustainable Challenges.” Journal of Tourism and Cultural Change, vol. 8, no. 4, 2010, pp. 278-292.

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