Is Pakistan Aiming to “out-Vegas” Dubai With World’s Biggest Tower?

Worlds Tallest Building Pakistan Didn’t Azerbaijan just claim to be building the world’s tallest tower?  

Abu Dhabi Group will construct the world’s tallest building in Pakistan. It’s the stuff of dreams. Let’s hope it stays that way. The project will surpass Dubai’s Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building in Dubai) as part of a $45 billion national investment by Pakistani tycoon Malik Riaz Hussain, according to Construction Week Online.

The mega-deal between Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, chairman of Abu Dhabi Group, and Hussain was just inked in Abu Dhabi.  Sheikh Al Nahyan said, “I am genuinely happy that in this historic project we are working with visionary Malik Riaz Hussain, this guarantees that the project will be delivered beyond our expectations but also before time. We will Inshallah be welcoming first residents in next three to four years.”

Watch that space.  Not a single major capital project has come in as per original schedule in the Middle East in a decade (developments related to elite sporting events are excluded from that broad smack-down).  It’s the economy, stupid.  Development money flows at a trickle, and new space is hard to sell.

Hussain also plans to build a series of single-themed cities for media, medicine, education and sports, as well as miniature versions of the Seven Wonders of the World.  Is Pakistan aiming to “out-Vegas” Dubai?

About $10 billion of the planned budget will be spent in Lahore and Islamabad and $35 billion will pour into Sindh.  The combined works are expected to create 2.5 million jobs.

Is this marvelous or misdirected? 

The world’s tallest building plunked down in Pakistan, the world’s sixth most populous nation that suffers from poverty, terrorism, illiteracy and corruption. The literacy rate (for population above ten years old) is 58.5%, and over a third of its people are under age 15.  Half of Pakistan’s’ urban dwellers lack access to sanitation, resultantly, gastroenteritis (transmitted through waterborn pollutants) is a leading cause of death.

As typical in a developing nation, efforts to spur economic growth undermine environmental protections.  Waste disposal is largely unregulated and there are no controls on vehicular emissions. Pakistan has the second-highest rate of deforestation in the world. But hey, it’s location, location, location.

Amidst the media shock and awe reporting on this story, one quiet blogger offered a clear perspective.  Ali Rafiq writes on The Tribune website:

“The tallest building on the planet, Burj Khalifa, was built in 2010 when Dubai was ranked as the seventh most visited city in the world. The second tallest building, the Makkah Royal Clock Tower Hotel, was built in a city that is visited by several million pilgrims annually as part of an obligate religious duty. The third tallest building in the world, the Taipei 101, is located in a city that holds one of the largest global foreign exchange reserves and boasts virtually full employment.

“The crux of the discussion is that all such buildings symbolise already existing prosperity in their respective cities, instead of initiating the process of development.

“When the Mughals, at the peak of their power, were busy building lavish architectural miracles like the Taj Mahal, the West invested in the field of science. The effect of these different approaches are being felt a couple of centuries later when the West has left us far behind in terms of development. The effect is felt even more when each year hundreds of our educated youth leave their home country for greener pastures, disheartened by the security situation that worsens each passing day.”

The Abu Dhabi United Group for Development and Investment is a United Arab Emirates-based private equity firm owned by Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan, member of the Abu Dhabi Royal Family and Minister of Presidential Affairs for the UAE. According to Wikipedia, the company was formed in 2008 as the investment vehicle for the takeover of Manchester City Football Club.

This may be a good move for it’s shareholders, but what’s in it for 180 million Pakistanis?

Image of fantasy tower from Shutterstock

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