Speaking at the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference in Dubai, Emaar’s chairman said the Middle East needed at least 10 cities in which to do business.

Receiving the leadership award, Alabbar – who is also Director-General of Dubai’s Department of Economic Development – said: “There are 300 million people in the region if you include Iran, which is comparable to US.

“In the US, you have a number of cities – New York, Chicago, Washington DC, San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles.

“We in the Middle East have just one city – Dubai – in which to do business, play, be educated, shop, live and have a financial centre.

“But we need at least 10 centres of trade and tourism. As they do well, we will do well. We need Beirut, Manama, Tehran to come back.”

And he said there was plenty more business to be done in Dubai. “I don’t think we’re even halfway there yet. Five years ago I’d have told you something different, but I’ve changed my mind.

“For years not much was happening in the region. Today everyone is working hard and competing hard. We should not say people cannot catch up – they can at any time.”

Alabbar also said getting the right people into the region was key – as was creating a good quality of life for them.

“In the region we go ahead and create jobs for people – that is so wrong,” he told the conference. “We should create people fit for the jobs; invest in human beings. The pressure on human resources is so high.

“It’s not about job creation. If it’s not about creating a better quality of life for people, it’s not worth it.

“To get the best people is our biggest challenge in the region. How do we get people who are fired up and emotional about their work? God blessed us with a lot of those but we need more.”