Press release

Dubai named a Global ‘City of Opportunity’, ranked 1st for airport connections to business districts and 5th most affordable city

PwC’s latest Cities of Opportunity study looks at what makes cities function best

Dubai, UAE May 21, 2014 –Dubai features this year as the only Middle-Eastern city in PwC’s Cities of Opportunity report, ranking 16th overall in the latest study that takes the pulse of 30 cities at the heart of the world’s economy and culture. Dubai ranked 5th in global affordability, that measures cost of living, purchasing power and corporate tax rates, behind only San Francisco, Los Angeles, Johannesburg and Toronto. Dubai was also ranked 8th as an urban gateway, replacing Los Angeles in the Top 10, bolstered by the efficiency of its airport connections to central business districts for which it ranked 1st globally.

Dubai headlines, the city ranks:

  • 16th overall in the study of 30 cities
  • 1st for lowest total tax rate globally
  • 1st in construction activity
  • 1st for airport access to central business districts (and 7th overall as a city gateway)
  • 2nd for working age population (underway or planned)
  • 4th for lowest crime rates (but ahead of all emerging cities)
  • 4th for attracting Foreign Direct Investment (FDI)
  • 7th for rate of real GDP growth
  • 8th for internet access in schools
  • 12th for its healthcare system, outscoring all US cities.

However, Dubai ranked 30th (last of out the cities studied) for its sustainability and natural resources which looks at elements such as the proportion of a city’s land area designated as public recreational and green space, and the percentage of recycled waste.

Cities of Opportunity 6 analyses the development of 30 global cities, and through their performance seeks to add insight on the policies and actions that make cities function best. Dubai’s greatest advantage is cost-effectiveness, offering better value than most developed or emerging cities and ranking 5th as the world’s most affordable city, for instance Dubai:

  • Ranks 1st for lowest corporate tax-rate globally
  • Finishes 10th in cost of living
  • Ranks 17th in the cost of business occupancy

Commenting on the report, Middle East Partner and Global leader of PwC’s Cities and Local Government team, Hazem Galal said, “Cities of Opportunities 6 highlights the remarkable progress Dubai has seen over the last few years, in its efforts to position itself as a global gateway and an easy place to do business. The combination of its low corporate tax rates, the proximity of its airports to business, its cost of living and quality of life mean that Dubai continues its ascent into the world’s top cities. Looking to the future to continue this upwards trend, areas the city should focus on improving include its performance in sustainability and the natural environment, as well as its educational framework.”

Room for improvement: Sustainability and natural resources

Dubai’s weakest performance is in sustainability and the natural environment, ranking last out of our 30 cities. Commenting on this outcome, Gus Schellekens, PwC’s Middle East Sustainability Leader said, “Dubai obviously has to contend with an extreme climate which creates a heavy reliance on air conditioning and desalinated water. However, since 2006 when sustainability was an omission in many government visions, Dubai has taken great steps to make it a central part of its policy and planning.”

Action is now being taken across a range of areas for example, the amount of public park space being created, the introduction of stricter building codes, and the introduction of renewable energy and demand side management programs. Looking ahead, Dubai’s Expo 2020 bid also places a major focus on sustainability that together with other possible areas of focus such as its levels of air pollution and the proportion of its municipal solid waste that goes to landfill will all help to improve its future scores in the study.

Global findings

Meanwhile, London, the only city to finish first in three of the 10 indicators—economic clout, city gateway and technology readiness, a category it ties with Seoul—posts the highest score for the first time, with New York coming in second. In addition, London finishes a narrow second to Paris in intellectual capital and innovation and a narrow second to Sydney in demographics and livability, both key areas for future urban prosperity.

Despite not having a top rank in any indicator, New York continues to show strong consistency across most of the categories. Rounding out the top five cities are Singapore, Toronto and San Francisco. The study shows that top ranked cities most embody the energy, opportunity and hope that draw people to city life. High performing cities also find the right balance between social and economic strengths in a world being quickly shaped by inescapable global trends.

Cities of Opportunity 6 also highlights the increasing competitiveness of emerging cities across several key indicators. Beijing, which ranked 19th, finishes in the top three in both the city gateway and economic clout categories, while Seoul is top in technology readiness and is the only emerging city to reach the top 10 in the ease of doing business indicator. Seoul and Buenos Aires also break into the top three for transportation and infrastructure, while Johannesburg is in the top three for cost.

The Cities of Opportunity key indicators and top three cities within each are: 

  • Intellectual capital and innovation: Paris, London, San Francisco
  • Technology readiness: London and Seoul tied for first place, Stockholm
  • City gateway: London, Beijing, Singapore
  • Transportation and infrastructure: Singapore, Toronto, Buenos Aires and Seoul tied for third
  • Health, safety and security: Stockholm, Sydney and Toronto tied for second
  • Sustainability and the natural environment: Stockholm and Sydney tied for first, Paris and Berlin tied for third
  • Demographics and livability: Sydney, London, San Francisco
  • Economic clout: London, Beijing, New York
  • Ease of doing business: Singapore, Hong Kong, New York
  • Cost: Los Angeles, Chicago, Johannesburg


Notes to editors

The full report is available at The site also features in-depth video interviews with leaders including Bob Moritz, PwC’s US Chairman and Senior Partner, Erik Brynjolfsson of MIT’s centre for digital business, and Ulla Hamilton, Deputy Mayor of Stockholm for entrepreneurism.
Cities of Opportunity 6: We, the urban people

In June, PwC will release Cities of Opportunity 6: We, the urban people, which will include findings from a global survey of 15,000 PwC professional staff—comprised of an average of 20 percent of staff in each of the 30 cities. The study,  which was used to enrich the data of the main Cities of Opportunity 6 report, will provide an in-depth look at demographics and quality of urban life, including responses on commuting, urban priorities, likelihood of remaining in the city, preferences for relocation, and spending patterns, among other revealing points.


Cities of Opportunity is based on publicly available data, using three main sources: global multilateral development organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund; national statistics organizations, such as National Statistics in the UK and the Census Bureau in the US; and commercial data providers. The data was collected during the third and fourth quarters of 2013. Besides adding Jakarta, Nairobi, and Rio de Janeiro to the study, PwC also replaced Abu Dhabi with Dubai, which brought the study to 30 cities total, the largest to date. The scoring methodology was developed to facilitate transparency and simplicity for readers, as well as comparability across cities.

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