In 2007, Abu Dhabi launched its Plan 2030 urban masterplan. The study outlined how Abu Dhabi city and the surrounding areas will be developed. It predicted population would more than triple to 3.1 million from 930,000.

Like most plans prepared during the economic heyday of 2007, that target now seems unrealistic. The scepticism has been prompted by the fact that many of key components of the masterplan have now stalled. Real-estate projects have been the most vulnerable as property prices and rents fall. Abu Dhabi’s largest developer Aldar Properties has sought financial support from the government.

With plans for Abu Dhabi city now being reviewed, it is perhaps surprising that the government is preparing similar plans for the emirate’s Western Region. By 2030, it expects population to increase by more than two and a half times to 315,000 from 120,000. Liwa is set to be developed as the region’s new capital city.

However, there is a crucial difference between the plans for the Western Region and Abu Dhabi city. Instead of relying on foreigners investing on freehold residential properties, the Western Region’s plans are based on industrial development and creating employment opportunities for a local population that today has to travel to Abu Dhabi city to find work. With large deposits of energy reserves, coupled with Abu Dhabi’s plans to invest billions of dollars in large-scale industrial projects, the Western Region’s masterplan should prove to be more resilient.