A friend of mine questions whether Dubai is properly a state. He thinks it's more like a corporation with territory. I think he's right.
Dubai is essentially owned by a single family, and they don't quite seem to run it as a traditional principality is run. They do run it like a corporation in some respects, investing heavily in an effort to draw in more and more business.
Typically, governments don't invest well. They lack the pricing incentive, not being able to know what the real value--market demand--is for their investments. And they're careless about balancing costs and benefits, as well as balancing the books, because it's not their own money they're spending, but the public's money. But if you do run your government as a privately held corporation are you able to read the bottom line better? Does the Dubai government have a better ability than most to analyze the costs of their "public" spending, since most of it is coming from their own coffers, i.e., their oil revenues?
Essentially I'm over here looking for a research question that will justify returning several times over the next few years. I'm not sure political scientists have written much on Dubai yet--few of them are economically minded, and hyper-capitalist places like Dubai, particularly with it's huge environment-altering island projects, is most political scientists' worst nightmare. But moral outrage doesn't lead to understanding, and I think it's an interesting question.
I would hope that the answer is "no, they don't invest more wisely than democratic governments," because I'm libertarian enough to not want to find anything good about a non-democratic government. But, again, it's about understanding, not my own moral values.
Side note: At the Dubai airport I noticed there were two Air Emirates planes leaving for Auckland, NZ only 5 minutes apart. Does that signify a lot of Kiwi businessmen in Dubai?