lesson for big beautiful Gwadar
Economic geographers and urban planners have differing opinions on how the port city should develop. Major cities around the world, whether they be in London, New York, or Karachi, all began and initially thrived as a result of port-related activities. However, many have grown over time to offer services other than port-related ones due to the growing importance of agglomeration and concentration of advanced producer services like finance, insurance, accountancy, and advertising in the new urban economy. However, due to port automation and containerization, the maritime industry is losing blue-collar jobs. Economic geographers and urban planners have differing opinions on how the port city should develop. Major cities around the world, whether they be in London, New York, or Karachi, all began and initially thrived as a result of port-related activities. However, many have grown over time to offer services other than port-related ones due to the growing importance of agglomeration and concentration of advanced producer services like finance, insurance, accountancy, and advertising in the new urban economy. However, due to port automation and containerization, the maritime industry is losing blue-collar jobs.
Since then, maritime services’ overall economic contribution and significance to port cities have decreased. The position of the city in the world city network, a type of social network with economics at its core, also supports the expanding role of the advanced producer services. Indicators like GaWC are used to measure the cities’ global connectivity and competitiveness (Globalization and World Cities). In the years 2020–22, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Dubai were all given the Alpha+ ranking. With Alpha++, London and New York stand out as being more integrated than all the other cities in the global city network.
Dubai’s Port City Model: Lessons to Learn
Since Dubai is often referred to as a “gateway global city” rather than a “hub port city,” like Singapore and Hong Kong are, its rapid rise in the global city network cannot be explained solely by its geographic location. Despite its relative disadvantage, Dubai’s transformation from a port of pearls with only 20,000 residents in 1950 to a globally integrated city with a population of over 3.49 million today offers important lessons for many developing port cities and can act as a testing ground for port city development like Gwadar.
Political parties, provincial governments, and residents of Balochistan and other provinces through which the CPEC routes must travel as part of the main corridor have raised numerous concerns regarding the rate of construction and the success or failure of CPEC and its related projects. But because it was still not fully operational by the middle of 2022, Gwadar Port, the CPEC’s starting point, has become the project’s most contentious element. Significant protests in November and December 2020 and devastation brought on by natural disasters in January 2021 also seem to support the Gwadar region’s poor governance. To overcome some of these difficulties, it is possible to learn from Dubai’s port city model, as will be covered below.
The approach to flexible urbanism used in Dubai’s development is the first lesson. The first master plan for Dubai was created in 1960 by British architect John Harris, and in 1971 it was revised to become the Dubai Development Plan Review to include port and auxiliary infrastructure. To direct Dubai’s spatial and economic development into a post-oil city of the twenty-first century, the earlier plan was replaced with the Comprehensive Development Plan 1985-2000.
The Dubai Strategic Plan 2015 and the Dubai 2020 Urban Masterplan were two additional plans that came afterward. They both aimed to make Dubai’s development more environmentally and sustainably friendly, with a focus on safety, security, and justice as well as governance, infrastructure, and economic and social development. Improvements are needed in a number of indicators, including trade openness, port and airport rankings, financial centre competitiveness, and tourist flow.
The Gwadar Smart Port City master plan, however, has yet to be physically implemented and is still in the planning stages despite being approved in 2019.
A streamlined and effective governance system has been established in Dubai to make it easier to carry out the development plans. The phrase “bureaucracy is a locomotive rather than a drag” reflects the effectiveness of the bureaucracy in Dubai, and “speed” has come to characterise Dubai’s governance system.
As a result, a better governance structure that is best suited for a port city must be implemented in the case of Gwadar, where there is no central government agency to manage the megaproject.
Doing business in Dubai has undoubtedly been made simpler by flexible urbanism combined with a blend of state-led and corporate governance systems, which has also helped to create an environment that is favourable to economic diversification and growth. Economic diversification has been facilitated by Dubai’s 25 free zones and expanded hinterland. Over 8,700 businesses call the 10,000-acre Jebel Ali Free Zone home, and it has directly supported 135,000 jobs.
The lack of critical services like electricity, water, gas, 4G coverage, and hinterland connectivity, on the other hand, is holding back the development of Gwadar Free Zone, despite some progress being made there.
Unquestionably crucial to the port-centric development of a city is the hinterland, a major driver of port competitiveness. However, it needs to be perfectly integrated with the port and airport to produce the desired results. Dubai has performed incredibly well in this area as well. Al-Maktoum International Airport, the port, and the Jebel Ali Free Zone all function as one bonded customs zone. But in the case of Gwadar, the main barrier is its lack of aerial connectivity with the rest of the nation. The New Gwadar International Airport (NGIA) is currently being built, and while a soft opening is scheduled for March 23rd, 2023, given the current pace of construction, it is more likely that operationalization will occur by 2024. Gwadar is inaccessible from all other cities, including Islamabad, Lahore, and even Quetta, the provincial capital, aside from Karachi, where PIA operates two flights per week. Businessmen won’t be able to freely travel to Gwadar from major cities like Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, or Quetta if there isn’t a free zone there. Neither the free zone nor Gwadar Port City are likely to thrive as much as Dubai. For NGIA to be financially viable, the same calls for the creation of a thorough marketing strategy.
There is no denying that big names lend credibility, and Dubai is ensuring its success by creating and running free zones in partnership with big names. For instance, Healthcare City in Dubai has teamed up with Harvard Medical School to carry out joint research and training to enhance the provision of healthcare globally. Additionally, it has drawn organisations from the medical field, including AstraZeneca, the Mayo Clinic, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, and others.
Such ideas must also be taken into account for Gwadar. To accomplish these goals, a modern city can be built on plenty of space/land that is nearby the NGIA.
The flexible workforce in Dubai is a significant contributor to the city’s rapid development. Because each stage of development requires a different skill set, Dubai’s prosperous labour market has little to no trouble luring the labour force required from the global market to meet its development needs. Dubai has the flexibility and clout to successfully complete each stage of development goals due to the importation of labour and its subsequent repatriation.
Three vocational training facilities have been established in the case of Gwadar, and one approach to explore is how best to use them in collaboration with businesses like Dubai Port.
Oil revenues were used in Dubai to finance the initial stages of infrastructure related to trade. During the real estate boom, later flagship projects, including the Burj Khalifa, Al-Maktoum International Airport, and the Palm Island, which can accommodate 120 million passengers annually, were financed using a variety of financing techniques, including aid from Abu Dhabi. On the basis of the economic tenet that “supply creates its demand,” it should be noted that these projects were constructed with excess capacity and against the advice of experts. However, there is a matter that requires more research, and that is the projects’ long-term viability.
In conclusion, there is more to the Dubai model than can be covered in this article. But some lessons are unquestionably crucial for Gwadar’s development going forward. The flexible urbanism of the Dubai model, a mix of corporate-like and state-led governance of the city, and its economic diversification strategies are admirable. In addition, the growth and operation of the hinterland alongside the port and airport have contributed to Dubai’s transformation over time from an entrepôt city in the 1970s to a transportation hub and, finally, to an outstanding logistic corridor in the region.
Furthermore, there are lessons to be learned from the growth of tourism, thematic industrial and trade parks, and the creation of a favourable business environment therein with a focus on advanced producer services. Dubai is still viewed as a service economy with a focus on financial services and tourism, even though manufacturing still makes up a sizable portion of the emirate’s overall economy. Each developmental path is distinct and separated by both time and space. However, the parallels between Gwadar today and Dubai in the 1950s give us some hopes for the city’s economic growth and some ideas on how to advance faster.
If Pakistan wants the rest of the world to invest in Gwadar Port City, which the Chinese are currently developing as the flagship project for the CPEC, it must organise its documents to highlight the city’s unique selling point. Dubaization offers a good illustration. The development strategy for Gwadar might be improved to better serve the goals it was intended to serve with a focus on the aforementioned policy recommendations.