I was in Abu Dhabi last week and had a chance meeting a few ‘so called’ real estate industry experts on UAE (loosely translated they were a bunch of expats who had landed in UAE on a sortie to make a quick buck). They were explaining how they were helping build a new Abu Dhabi and how they were going to do some great things in this country. They supposedly knew every building facing the cornice by name and every building that was coming up in Saadiyat Island.
After listening for about 30 minutes of this non stop banter, I decided to pull my favourite test on real estate experts. I casually weaved in a question into the conversation, when the discussion was on Abu Dhabi. I asked ‘What do you guys think about the Qasr Al-Hosn, the building looks great now, don’t you think?’.Blank stares, the ‘Qasr who?’ and the ‘Qasr What’ was all I got back; and they ignored me and the conversation went on.
A smart banker had once told me, at the heights of the real estate boom, he used to put this question, just to text the knowledge of some real estate industry experts who came to him with ‘plans extraordinaire’ and he rarely found anyone stumbling on it. Qasr Al Hosn, the white fort in Abu Dhabi is the oldest stone building in the city of Abu Dhabi. At a time when everyone still referred to the city as Abu zaby, the fort had come up. I must be honest, I don’t know more about the building, you can search out the rest of the historical significance of the building, but what matters is if someone does not know the history of buildings in Abu Dhabi, and has never heard about the Qasr Al Hosn (because of its significance as the first stone building in Abu Dhabi), he may as well not be the guy with whom you place your buck/ brick, however smart he may be.
The context of telling this story is not to explain that I know about the building, it is to share with you that, I think there are too many people in Abu Dhabi nowadays who seem to be vending their ‘plans extraordinaire’ schemes in Abu Dhabi, I wish Abu Dhabi would take a pause between the quick strides it is taking as part of its transformation.
The Abu Dhabi 2030 blue print which was the centre piece of city scape is extraordinary. In today’s bleak times globally, it looked like a honey pot to me. Take a look at these numbers which would go into building the new Abu Dhab
- USD 200 Billion to be spent between 2008 & 2013 in infrastructure development in the state of Abu Dhabi, with 40% coming from Govt and the rest through a private sector-public partnerships. That’s USD 80 billion of contracts to be won in 5 years, now wonder the honey pot had attracted crooks, amateurs and experts alike.
- From a Louvre to the Guggenheim, SaadiyatIsland (the USD 28 Billion development) will house an extraordinary vision which is designed to attract 1.5 Million visitors
- A 130+ Km Metro line is planned to come up and bids were invited last year and is expected to start by 2015. A 75 km line in Dubai was built at a cost of a Billion dollars upwards recently, Abu Dhabi’s plans are double that of Dubai.
And why should Abu Dhabi not dream, it has all the right to dream big:
- Abu Dhabi accounts for 94% of the proven oil reserves of UAE. The proven oil resources of UAE are at 98 Billion barrels, and at the expected yearly production rate, they would last for a century.
- Vision Abu Dhabi 2030 is planned based on a budget of oil at USD 47 per barrel, which was further revised to USD 40 per barrel. At the time of writing this blog oil was hovering at the 80’s mark.
Abu Dhabi deserves a renovation; the city really is stretched in several ways. Does it need so much infrastructure investments is none of my business, but as a friend of the nation, I hope for the benefit of all of us that the great men who rule this nation are not swayed by those who do not even know the Qasr Al-Hosn!
Here's to the future of Abu Dhabi 2.0
Disclosure: No Positions