Dubai’s reputation has been built on trade. The idea of being an international business hub is woven into the fabric of the city and plays a central role in the history of the emirate. It was the dredging of Dubai Creek in 1960, at the instigation of then ruler Sheikh Rashid al-Maktoum, which paved the way for what the city has since become: a forest of gleaming towers, a regional business hub, a magnet for sun-seeking tourists and a low-tax link between east and west.
Yet something is going wrong these days.
Over the decades the authorities have continually invested in expanding facilities for importers and exporters, with Dubai now home to huge free trade zones, one of the world’s busiest international airports and a top-1o container port. But despite all the world-class infrastructure, trade volumes haves stalled.
Dubai’s non-oil trade was worth AED1.3 trillion ($354bn) last year, according to figures released over the weekend. That was down very slightly on the year before but, more importantly, it also marked the sixth consecutive year of slow or no growth. Indeed, the emirate’s international trade is now worth slightly less than it was in 2013 and 2014.
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