Back from UAE

Great picture of Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce board chair Tayloe Washburn and Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon sitting with His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. Too bad the article didn’t get around to mentioning that we were visiting from Seattle.

Really amazing trip to Abu Dhabi and Dubai. It’s a part of the world filled with strange juxtapositions and seemingly conflicting aspects all meshed into one. But the thing our delegation from the Trade Development Alliance of Greater Seattle really came away with was an incredible respect for (and some healthy skepticism of) their ambition and vision. This is a country that is actually taking its incredible natural resource wealth and investing it into trying to building a modern metropolis with a diversified economy and strong, sufficient infrastructure to support it. They’ve got incredible central planning and have traveled the world identifying the best practices in everything from healthcare and clean technology to transportation and land use. It’s really a policy analyst’s dream, a laboratory of public policy being spread over an essentially blank canvas in an effort to build a perfect urban ecosystem. Some things will work, some won’t, and maybe the economy and/or their overreach will bring them down to earth, but good for them for giving it a shot; better than just hoarding oil wealth and hoping it never ends.

I think TDA is going to release a report and some official pictures, but I’ll say that one of the biggest takeaways was their commitment to central planning and the ability for everyone to get behind one regional plan. There was renewed energy from our delegation to try and put aside our differences here in the region and actually work together on the issues that are essential to our survival in the global economy. Hopefully that commitment continues. I think there is an exciting opportunity as the Prosperity Partnership’s first five year plan comes to an end and we decide how to proceed after 2010.

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2 Responses to Back from UAE

  1. Alex Pietsch says:

    I can certainly see how central planning can be wonderful in a monarchy with seemingly limitless wealth. How do we get that?

  2. ericschinfeld says:

    So, it’s funny you say that, because that’s the exact conversation we had amongst (betwixt?) our delegation when we were over there: “Yeah sure, this is all great, but how does it apply to us? We certainly don’t have unlimited wealth and we do have unlimited process. We can’t just snap our fingers and build a light rail in three years.” (It opens in September over there) And my response was, “that’s exactly the point.” When you have limited and scattered resources, it’s even more essential to be using them in a targeted, strategic, coordinated way. Maybe this economic downturn is an opportunity to get multiple jurisdictions to realize that cooperation and shared investment in joint resources is the only way to survive, and that a strong central plan lays out those agreed upon areas of focus.

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