Is Dubai’s competitive advantage sustainable? A study of strategic planning in Dubai 1996-2010

  • Ahmad Bin Hassan Al Shaikh

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis provides a critical analysis of Dubai’s approach to economic development planning over the period covered by its first three formalized plans that is 1996 to 2010. Dubai experienced a period of very rapid economic growth in the ten years before the 2008 global financial crisis, despite being a small economy with little oil; oil revenues only accounted for 2% of GDP in 2011. This dissertation analyzes and evaluates how the nature of Dubai’s strategic planning changed over the period 1996 to 2010 and the factors underpinning those changes. The thesis also offers an assessment of the potential for Dubai to develop and maintain a
    sustainable competitive advantage in the future.

    To help evaluate Dubai’s first three formalized economic development plans, this thesis identifies and discusses a number of theoretical frameworks and concepts to identify key concepts and relationships between ideas and practice in the field of economic development planning. In particular, a comparison is drawn between corporate strategic planning and economic development planning approaches and their relevance to the Dubai context. Given the blurred boundaries between the state and commerce, both approaches have potential relevance, at least in part, to Dubai.

    Dubai’s economic development plans are set against the historical, political, economic, social and cultural and context of the Emirate. The plans are analyzed using computer-based text analytics and summarized in mindmap form. This allows the major themes of the plans to be compared and progression between the plans to be identified. The plans are analyzed from a number of perspectives including the role of government, the expected contribution of the
    private sector and the role of higher education and research in promoting development. However, the main area of analysis is the extent to which the plans successfully identify development paths which will result in sustainable competitive advantage for Dubai.

    The thesis also reports on the results of semi-structured interviews with prominent experts. The interviews provide an important source of evidence and opinions on the successes and
    shortcomings of Dubai’s planning and plans and the actions which need to be taken if Dubai is to achieve its long-term aim of becoming and innovation an innovation driven knowledgebased economy.

    The main conclusions of the research are
    i. Dubai will need to strengthen its higher education system to ensure it is fit for purpose
    in helping Dubai’s transformation into a knowledge-based economy
    ii. The need to invest in the systems, structures and institutions which will enable the state, the private sector and universities and research institutes to generate successful innovative clusters
    iii. The need to lessen the dependency of the Dubai economy on attracting talent from other countries through raising the education standards of Emiratis.
    Date of Award2012
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Coventry University


    • Economic development
    • competitive advantage
    • national strategy
    • Dubai

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