92. Opportunity

Pa, it sure was swell the government givin’ us this place ‘n all, but d’ya think we could turn the AC on, its like 150 in here!

Ever since Britain established 13 new colonies on the eastern coastline of a trans-Atlantic continent, America has been known colloquially as “the Land of Opportunity”.  America’s key selling point was to entice the masses away from the oppressing tyranny that ruled so vigorously in their home countries.  As such millions of British, Italian, Irish, German and Dutch and just about everyone else floated across the Atlantic to start over.  Of course when they got there they realised that they had to build their own houses out of trees and had to make sure they weren’t killed by the natives, but otherwise things were rosy.

The USA did indeed become the land of opportunity; he with only a buck to his name could leave the house potless in the morning and return in the evening a wealthy king.  Much like the British thinking that their empire would last forever and ever and ever, America believed that it would always remain the land of opportunity and as such would build such a powerful economy that it too thought it would reign forever and ever and ever.

That was until an accounting firm called PricewaterhouseCoopers stepped in with a survey…  Abu Dhabi is on the USA’s tail.

Well, sort of.

The first thing to mention is that PwC has opted to work out the top 27 cities, isn’t that a peculiar number?  Aren’t things normally listed in 10’s?  UAE Uncut is in the top 20 blogs in the UAE.  Sorry, had to get that in there.  Anyway, spurious numbers aside, Abu Dhabi is doing jolly well.

I must say I take all surveys with a pinch of salt.  It’s no good going out in the middle of the week to get the views of students and the unemployed; the working tax-payer is the person with the answers.  But there is something even more inane about a survey conducted by an accounting firm.  I know several accountants and they are all nice people; good at their jobs, friendly, and as you would expect, good with money.  But accountants share a common catchphrase: “don’t ask me, I’m just the accountant.”  They look at the data and not the human factor.  And that’s good, leave the moralising to the rest of us.

Remarkably, out of the seemingly random 27 cities investigated, Abu Dhabi is the only one from the Middle East.  I’m not so sure their neighbours, Dubai, are going to like that.  The UAE capital has been ranked 22nd in the fifth edition of the Cities of Opportunity…err…challenge.  It looks mainly at finance, culture and commerce and somehow is able to predict exactly what jobs will be the good ones in the year 2025, a year plucked at random, it would seem.

There’s a whole load of statistics, figures and percentages which, frankly, look completely meaningless.  There are also some quotes from people who you have never heard of, but this is all just filler text, all we really want to look at is the list.  Sadly, this being a survey conducted by accountants, there isn’t just one list telling us how good Abu Dhabi is, there are several lists about different things.  Here we are then, are you sitting down?

Abu Dhabi finished in 6th place in the “cost of business occupancy” competition.  Abu Dhabi came home in 9th place in the “consumer index” race.  Abu Dhabi scored a remarkable second place podium finish in the “lowest cost in public transport” challenge.  Abu Dhabi, and this is my favourite, finished in 15th position in the “iPod Nano index”, which measures the number of working hours needed to afford an iPod Nano.  But of course the crowning jewel is a dominant victory in the “highest amount of hospitals per capita” category.  It seems that Abu Dhabi may be short on occupied villas but certainly isn’t short on hospitals.

Add all this together and when pitted against the likes of San Francisco, New York, London, Shanghai and Tokyo, Abu Dhabi is in 22nd place.  Wahoo.  Go get ‘em.

But, the survey exposes a darker side to Abu Dhabi.  It ranked last in the sustainability and the natural environments indicator.  The reason for this, apparently, is because it does not have enough public park space (even if it did, no sod would be allowed to use it anyway) and is – pardon the pun – rubbish at recycling.  The final blow, and quite unfairly in my opinion, is that Abu Dhabi has poor thermal control and air pollution problems.

This is why we can’t rely on an accountant’s survey.  The physical environment has not been accounted for.  Abu Dhabi is a great city, but because it sits on the Tropic of Cancer in the Arabian Desert, which is one of the hottest places on Earth, it cannot progress up the ladder.  No matter how rich it is it simply cannot do anything about the sun and heat.  The main cause of pollution is not cars; there are only 1.5 million in the capital compared to 5 million in London, but from the energy needed to power the air conditioning units.  The sun isn’t going to go away and air-con is here to stay.  Without it we’d all be expatriates working in Hong Kong instead.

So, ditch your rain-sodden jobs and escape the oppressing tyranny of the European Union and set sail for Abu Dhabi, the Land of Opportunity.  You’ll love it; apart from the heat and the pollution of course…

Oh, you won’t need to worry about building your own house, the economy is screwed so they’re just giving them away; until 2025…

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