Sunday, December 11, 2011

Comparative Analysis of the three rising stars of Asia- Hong Kong, Singapore & Dubai

        Fig 1: Skyline of Singapore. Source: Wikipedia                                                                    

Singapore, Hong Kong, and Dubai are three major city states, of international standing in Asia. All of them have undergone a phenomenal growth in the last few decades and plays a very pivotal role in the economy of their respective nations and even regions. Considered among some of the best marketed destinations in the globe; they bring in a huge amount of investments along with human capital. All these three city states constantly feature among the list of top 10, most visited cities in the world. The following blog will do a comparative analysis of the following places across a wide range of qualitative as well as quantitative parameters.


·         Dubai: is one of the most well marketed destinations, across the globe. In the three decades, the small emirate has seen itself leapfrogging from a sleepy town to one of the biggest success saga of Middle East. Placed between the cross roads of East and West, Dubai is also sometimes known as the gateway of the Middle East to the world. The biggest strength of Dubai lies in its visionary and extremely efficient leadership and liberal culture, helping it attract expats from all over the world. It is among the very first Gulf States, that has successfully diversified its economy into various sectors such as-tourism, real estates, retail, trade, media, financial services etc.  The very first thing that comes to mind with brand Dubai is the state of art real estate constructions. Dubai boasts some of the biggest, most expensive, state of the art buildings, hotels and real estate assignments- Al Burj, Burj Khalifa, Palm islands etc. Other than these world famous  landmarks Dubai offers plethora of state of the art shopping malls, amusement parks, museums, resorts and spa, golf courses, sports stadiums, convention centers etc.
·         Singapore: the small city state which once got freedom in 1963 from Malaysia; is not only among one of the most visited cities across the globe; but also an epicenter of trade, commerce, finance, technology and innovation. Considered among the biggest success sagas of 20th centuries, Singapore had witnessed an average growth rate of 7.9 percentages, since 1963.  The Singapore’s success story is based on four pillars- liberal govt. policies, skilled workforce, state of the art sea ports and strategic location. During the time of 60’s and 70’s when this tiny state was suffering from high unemployment, liberal policy frame work was put in place, along with investments in labor incentive industries. In the later stage, Singapore successfully transformed itself from a labor incentive industry to an innovation driven industry. Today it is home to around 500 financial institutions and most of the MNCs of the world. It also has a numero uno position in the “ease of doing business index”. (World Bank data, 2010) Singapore is also great tourist hub with state of the art hotels, resorts, shopping malls, casinos etc. In 2009, it received 9.7 million tourists and was among the list of most visited cities in the world. (annual report on tourism statistics 2009, 2011)

·         Hong Kong: it’s a place where East meets the West. Before being handed over to China in 1997, Hong Kong was under British Rule. Even today other than foreign relations and military defense, it maintains a high degree of autonomy. In contrast to mainland China, it enjoys a capitalist structure marked by free trade and low taxation. It is considered as one of the freest economies of the world. Famous economist Milton Friedman once described that if someone wants to see free economy, he should go to go to Hong Kong. Like Singapore it is a major trade and financial center. Like the other three Asian tigers (Singapore, Taiwan and South Korea) Hong Kong underwent industrialization during 60’s and successfully transformed into a service sector economy during 80’s. In 2010 service sector has accounted for 92.5 percentage of GDP, against Industry contributing just 7.4 percentages. (CIA World Fact Book, 2010). A blend of Chinese and Western culture, Hong Kong is also a fabulous tourist destination attracting tourists from all over the globe.     


All these three places are trade centers and financial capitals of their respective regions, besides being great tourist destinations; there by attracting a large number of expats- businessmen, travelers, working professionals, academicians, celebrities etc. According to the survey conducted by Dubai Statistics Center in 2006, 17 percentages of the population consists of local Emiratis. 71 percentages of the population consist of Asian which mainly includes- Indian, Pakistani, Srilankan, etc. 3 percentage of population has been categorized as Western.  In contrast to this in Hong Kong, according to 2006 census 95 percentages of the work force is Chinese followed by Filipino (1.6 percentage), Indonesian (1.3 percentage) and others 2.1 percentage. (Index Mundi, 2011). In Singapore out of the total population of 5.08 million, 3.77 million are Singapore residents against 1.31 million foreign residents. (Comprising of tourists) Out of 3.77 million, residents 3.23 million are citizens where as 0.54 millions are permanent residents. Major ethnic communities include Chinese, Malay, and Indians etc. 0.3 percentage of the population can be categorized as Western.  (Department of statistics Singapore, 2011) 

Fig 2: compares the population of three states for the year 2010. Source of data: Dubai Statistics center, Singapore Statistics center and CIA World fact book.

Fig 3: shows the population of the three city states in millions, over the period of time. Source of data: Hong Kong year book, Dubai Chamber of Commerce, Department of Statistics Singapore
Table 1: compares the three city states across various parameters. Reference year: 2010; Source of data: US department of State, Index Mundi etc


                Table 2: compares the three city states across geographical parameters.


The following section will compare the three city states across some of the economic parameters- Gross Domestic product (GDP), Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), Cost of living Index etc.

Fig 3: showing the GDP of the three city states, US $ billions, for the year 2010. Source: CIA Fact Book, Al Arabia news.

Fig 4: showing the GDP growth rate of the three city states in the past few years. Source: World Bank, Dubai Statistics Center.

Fig 5: showing FDI inflow of the three city states in US $ billions, over the last 6 years. Source: World Bank, Dubai Statistics center.

Table 3: compares the 3 city states across various cost of living indices. Source: NUMBEO

Tourism statistics

Other than being epicenter of trade, commerce and financial activities, the three states are also considered among some of the greatest tourist destinations in the globe. Constantly featuring among the top 10 most visited cities in the globe, they have some of the most magnificent hotels, resorts, casinos, convention centers, amusement parks etc. The following line graph of the report will compare the 3 city states in terms of annual tourist arrivals

Fig 6: showing annual arrival of tourists in millions. Source: Dubai Tourism and Commercial Marketing (DTCM), Press releases by Hong Kong tourism board, Singapore Tourism Board. The comparatively higher figure for Hong Kong is on account on Chinese travelers, which account for approximately 2/3rd of tourist arrival. 


This part of the report will try figuring out one word, which can describe the brand of these city states.

Dubai had successfully ventured into wide range of activities ranging from various forms of tourism (leisure, shopping, sports, cultural, dessert, business etc); trade, businesses, industries etc; but one word describing brand Dubai can be luxury. It’s a place where modern day dynamism blends well with traditional Arabic tranquility. Be it the state of the art hotels or resorts; shopping malls or villas; everywhere Dubai reflects luxury. For Singapore, that one word could be innovation. Singapore is the hub of high tech innovation. According to Global Innovation Index 2011, Singapore has been ranked as 3rd most innovative nation in the world and 1st in Asia. (, 2011). Similarly one word that can reflect the brand essence of city state Hong Kong could be liberty. Hong Kong is one of the most free and liberal states in the world. It practices liberty in almost every sphere of life- economic, social, political, etc. It offers a top notch living conditions or its residents. Ranked 13th on the Human Development Index, it is one of the best places to live. Singapore has a rank of 26, whereas Dubai (UAE) has a rank of 30. (Human Development Index and its Component, 2011)

Fig 8: Shows the brand essence of the three city states in one word.
ANALYSIS & conclusion

The given report had tried analyzing the three city states of Asia across various parameters related to demography, economy, tourism etc. With the help of various charts it could be seen that Dubai is still catching up with the Singapore and Hong Kong and will take some time to reach their level. Dubai is an Emirate with extremely big ambitions. For instance by 2015, the Dubai Tourism and Commercial Marketing aims at reaching an annual tourist arrival of 15 million. Though time will tell how far Dubai will excel to realize this ambition; but if realized Dubai will be the most visited tourist destination in the world. Similarly in other spheres also the 2nd largest emirate of UAE holds huge ambitions. Exp: Jebel Ali, the largest man made harbor is also undergoing expansion and once completed in 2030, it is expected to be the biggest container port in the world.

The social and economic structures of these three city states have their own similarities as well as differences. Singapore and Hong Kong are quite synonymous to each other in terms of knowledge economy, high degree of social freedom & liberty and international trade centers; Dubai offers a slightly different case. Though Dubai has successfully diversified its economy (presently Hydrocarbons account for only 2.1 percentage of GDP, contrary to 1985, when it had a giant share of 55 percentages) into real estate, trade and tourism; it is still far behind from becoming a knowledge economy. Similarly in terms of demographic break up, Dubai’s economy is completely dependent on expats, in contrast to local Emiratis which constitute only 17 percentage of population. (, 2011). It is the other way round in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Table 4: shows the diminishing percentage of oil in Dubai’s GDP. Source: USA Today, AME, Dubai Chamber of Commerce

Dubai has its own advantage. It is yet to realize its full potential and hence has a long way to go. In the form of its ambitious 2015 plan, it aims at implementing strong social and economic reforms and transformations. It is one of the fastest growing Emirates and prior to the economic crisis that led to real estate bust; it was enjoying a double digit growth rate. Considered as an epicenter of trade, finance, investments, culture and tourism in the Middle East region, it had help attracting a lot of investments, trade and human capital for the region.

If IT and Technology defines Singapore and Hong Kong; real estate defines Dubai.  It is marked by luxury, which gets reflected in the wide range of high profile construction projects incubated by the Emirate. One of the reasons, it can accommodate such projects, is the availability of large amount of free space. While Singapore and Hong Kong are becoming vertical cities, Dubai still enjoys a population density of 408 per square Kilometer, much lesser than most of the major cities in the world. It is also comparatively economical in comparison to the other two cities. (as shown in table 3). In a nutshell, Dubai has carved a unique niche for itself. Created amidst a dessert, it has successfully transformed itself from a sleepy oil rich emirate, where once hydrocarbon accounted for more than 50 percentage of GDP to one of the most economically diversified and socially liberal state in the region.

In terms of political structure Dubai and Singapore share a similar kind of structure. Both of them are blessed with visionary political leadership, which played a pivotal role in their exorbitant growth. They have got an extremely efficient political and bureaucratic apparatus, known for executing big projects swiftly. Contrary to this in Hong Kong, govt. has a minimal role to play in the economic ambit. In fact Hong Kong has one of the most liberal economies across the globe.   

In spite of having differences across various economic and social parameters, there are lots of things common in the three states. On Economic front, all of them have liberal economic policies marked by low tax and tariff rates, helping them attract a large amount of investments and top notch human capital. All of them have shown phenomenal growth rate in the recent past. They share a lot of similarities in terms of landscape and geography. They are islands, have extended coastlines, and are situated in strategic locations, which helped them morphed into excellent trading centers. Not blessed with much of exotic natural landscapes, they made huge investments in developing state of the art hotels, beach resorts, golf courses, convention centers, shopping malls; there by transforming into magnificent leisure and business tourism destination. High tourist arrivals have also been very advantageous for their retail sector. On social front, all three of them are marked by open and liberal cosmopolitan culture, attracting expats from all over the globe and providing a platform to grow and flourish. This ability of attracting diversified human resource from various parts of globe had eventually been very beneficial to them.

The three city states converges as well as diverges across different parameters; but one thing that is common to all is the phenomenal success story they have scripted for themselves in such a small interval of time. They came from nowhere and today are destinations of international standing. These city states, developed from scratch, are product of- strategic planning, die hard entrepreneurial spirit and openness towards change. Hong Kong, Singapore and Dubai-these are the rising stars of the East, without any substantial past, but definitely with an illustrious present and future.



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