November Issue 2008

By | News & Politics | Published 16 years ago

Dubai real estate is red hot, not because of its desert climate of over 120°F, but because of the presence of the world’s largest companies and the hottest personalities.

Be it Britney Spears, Madonna, Paris Hilton, Michael Jackson, Tom Cruise, Tiger Woods or even Brad Pitt, nearly every top western celebrity either owns a villa or a super-luxury condo in one of the most expensive parts of the world — Marina West and Palm Islands in Dubai.

Long gone are the days when Dubai was just a favourite destination for labourers from South Asia, white-collar professionals from India and Pakistan and top businessmen of the subcontinent, who have been flocking to the tiny city-state since the early 1970s.

Many in Pakistan make the mistake of thinking that Dubai depends solely on Pakistanis and Indians, thanks to our massive flight of capital.

Wrong. Our flight of capital is just a drop in the bucket. Today, the real ‘Dubai chalo’ fervour is more visible in the United States, Canada, Australia and most of all, the UK.

Forget Pakistanis, Dubai is now the number one destination for Australians to live and work in. Within a span of five years, the foreign population of Dubai has grown to about 20%, which include the British, South Africans and Germans, among others.

And why shouldn’t it? The city is doing everything to create heaven on earth for these foreigners. It provides them with the best infrastructure, flexible laws, indoor skiing facilities, easy access to alcohol and prostitutes (from every part of the world), pork — you name it. Everything is available by the truckload.

All the world’s top advertising agencies have offices in Dubai and most of their employees are either Europeans or Americans. Walk into one of their offices in Dubai, and it feels as if you are in a Manhattan office.

dubai-5-nov08Similarly, all the top business and management consulting agencies also have their offices in Dubai and are directly picking up their trainees and interns from top American universities. Campuses of Harvard Business School, MIT, NYU, Tufts and others are the most favourite hiring destinations for positions in Dubai.

The city is evolving into a centre of education par excellence. No need to go to the US, Canada or Australia anymore. Most of the leading universities in the world either have their campuses or affiliated colleges in Dubai.

There are at least 30 top international universities at the moment. These include Wharton, Carnegie-Mellon, Boston University Dental School, Murdoch University, University of Atlanta, University of Michigan and many more.

Real estate brokers think that the development of student rental properties is going to be the next construction boom.

Until now we have been reading reports about how US companies based in the US, have been outsourcing jobs such as call centres, processing and research, in order to have cheaper running costs.

dubai-6-nov08In the corporate sector, Halliburton is the first company in US corporate history to shift its entire headquarters to Dubai. This move by Halliburton — at the time headed by Vice President Dick Cheney — shook the corporate sector, sparking political outrage. After earning billions of dollars from the ongoing Iraq war and winning the cushiest controversial no-bid contracts in Iraq, Halliburton’s move is considered a shrewd way to avoid paying taxes in the US, as well as to shake off investigations of kickbacks received.

But Hillary Clinton, for one, doubts that the move away from the US will give the company cover. “Does this mean they are going to quit paying taxes in America? They get a lot of government contracts. Is this going to affect the investigations that are going on? Because we have a lot of evidence of misuse of government contracts and how they have cheated the American soldier and cheated the American taxpayer,’’ she remarked.

The move has led around 3,000 American employees, working at Halliburton’s Houston headquarters, to relocate to Dubai. The company is now building a separate plush residential area for its executives.

Halliburton is just one striking example of companies shifting their headquarters to Dubai. Others have set up huge regional headquarters such as the networking giant Cisco, computer giants like Apple and IBM, and software titans such as Microsoft, Sun Micro Systems and Oracle.

dubai-7-nov08The media seems to think of Dubai as an emerging Singapore, while Fareed Zakaria, the editor for Newsweek’s international edition, sees it as a liberal democratic state. Zakaria considers Dubai more liberal than many so-called democratic countries. Although Dubai, like Singapore, has strict censorship where local media coverage is concerned, but it has given leading media outlets from around the globe, a reasonably liberal environment to operate in.

Be it Geo or ARY from Pakistan, every big media organisation has set up its office in Dubai. From news wires such as Bloomberg and Reuters, to CNN, Al-Jazeera and BBC from the electronic media, to big fashion magazines and research magazines dealing with oil, stocks and agriculture commodities, all have their regional headquarters in the city.

Surprisingly, even the US armed forces’ CENTCOM, whose headquarters are in Qatar, has its media headquarters based in Dubai in the same building where GEO, CNN and Al-Jazeera have their offices.

From global giants and the fashion industry, to the corporate, hotel and tourism sector, as well as the media, everyone has made their place in Dubai.