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Dubai's Economy Continues to Grow

Dubai is becoming a business hub and is one of the world's fastest growing economies. But Dubai will now have to move forward with a different leader after the death of the emir. VOA's Crystal Park narrates this report.

Sheik Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir of Dubai, passed away last week at the age of 62. Dubai's economy has grown exponentially under Sheik Maktoum's reign, becoming a hub for business and tourism. Dubai's gross domestic product grew by 16 percent in 2005.

Sheik Maktoum will be succeeded by his brother Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, whom many say is the driving force behind Dubai's economic transformation.

Former Ambassador David Mack, Vice President of the Middle East Institute, told us, "Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the new ruler of Dubai and the defense minister of the United Arab Emirates for a number of years, has been a principle force in the economic revitalization of Dubai. He is also extremely interested in the business activity. He takes a direct role."

Sheik Mohammed is also credited with helping business by keeping the Emirates safe.

"The first thing has been to maintain basic stability and security in Dubai. It's obviously in a region of great turbulence and yet it's been relatively unmarked by these kinds of problems," said the ambassador.

Despite being in the oil-rich gulf region, Dubai has attracted many international corporations to create a diverse economy.

"Dubai has flourished as a commercial and touristic center and it basically benefits not only from oil and gas revenues, but also from tourism that has nothing to do with, and business that has nothing to do with the oil industry."

Dubai is home to beach resorts, an indoor ski resort, skyscrapers and manmade islands. But all of this construction has led to concerns from environmental groups.

Roger Higman is with Friends of the Earth. "It is madness that we should be building ski resorts in the Arabian Peninsula when the energy crisis is threatening to wipe out ski resorts all over the world because of global warming."

But some analysts believe daring ideas like the indoor ski resort, the creation of Internet City, and the upscale hotels are behind Dubai's rising economy.

The change in leadership is not expected to produce any economic changes. Sheik Maktoum had already handed over day-to-day operations of Dubai to his brother, Sheik Mohammed, years ago.