The life in each of the seven UAE emirates is directly connected with the personality of its leader. The leadership style, political and religious views, and even the Sheikh’s character significantly impact the social and political structures within the Emirate. Dubai is commonly called an economic miracle of the 20th and 21st centuries due to the wise politics and efforts of particular people, and one of the key figures among these people is Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Under the government of Sheikh Mohammed, Dubai has experienced rapid economic growth and turned into one of the world’s largest tourism and business centers.
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Background of UAE and Dubai: Political Role of Al Maktoum Family
Al Maktoum family’s origins come from the prominent and prestigious tribal federation, Bani Yas (Mayo et al. 2). Bani Yas tribe dominated the UAE territory since the midst of the 18th century. In 1833, the Al Maktoum family founded the autonomous sheikhdom in Dubai.
In 1892, Sheikh Rashid bin Maktoum and other sheiks of Trucial Oman signed the treaty with Great Britain according to which the UK protectorate was established over Dubai. Since then, the Sheikh of Dubai and his successors couldn’t conduct international negotiations and sign agreements with other states; they also couldn’t sell or lend any parts of the emirate’s territory.
The history of the United Arab Emirates as an autonomous State is relatively short. It starts when Great Britain refuses its rights for the Emirates in December 1971. December 2, the rulers of the Trucial States made a decision about the creation of UAE. And the new stage of the country’s development has commenced.
After UAE obtained independence, Sheikh Mohammed’s father became the vice president of the state while Sheikh Mohammed was assigned to the post of the minister of defense at the age of 21 (Mayo et al. 4). In 1990, after Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum’s death, the political power was succeeded by Sheikh Mohammed, who ruled Dubai from 1990 to 2006.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
The former Crown Prince of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed was born in 1949. He was the third son of Sheikh Saeed. Sheikh Mohammed spent his childhood in the family house in the Al Shindagha region. At those times, Sheikh Mohammed’s grandfather, Sheikh Rashid, who was a ruler of Dubai, conducted the regular informal meetings (Majlis) where the most respected citizens of the city gathered to discuss the issues of various kinds. Sheikh Mohammed always participated in these meetings despite his young age.
From early childhood, Sheikh Mohammed attended the private lessons of the Arabic language and Islamic knowledge. In 1955, he began elementary education at the Al Ahmadia school (Mayo et al. 4). He studied Arabic grammar, English, mathematics, geography, and history there. The enthusiasm and diligence made him an outstanding student and helped to achieve academic success.
In 1966, Sheikh Mohammed was enrolled in Cambridge. Studying at the prestigious school gave him an opportunity to get familiar with the international community. The engagement in this multinational learning environment has contributed to the development of Sheikh’s personality and political views. He was highly successful in the field of literature and fulfilled himself in various kinds of sports. Despite the fact that Sheikh Mohammed didn’t yet reach the age of 20, he understood well what directions will have significance in his adult life: military knowledge, politics, literature, and sports.
Development of Dubai
The industrial reserves of oil on the territory of UAE were first found in Abu Dhabi emirate in the late 50s. In Dubai, oil was found only in 1966 and its commercial export started in 1969. The first continental deposits of oil and gas were found in 1982 near Dubai. However, the known oil reserves were small; therefore, the strategy of the emirate’s development was aimed at the usage of profits from oil for the creation of the economy that would ensure Dubai’s prosperity independently of the petroleum wealth.
It is considered that Dubai’s economic growth is still influenced by the profitability of the oil export. But in reality, oil products constitute not more than 4.5% GDP while the main contributors to the emirate’s economy are trade and nonoil businesses (“Dubai GDP to Outdo World” par. 3). The total trade turnover in 2000 was over the US $25 billion (40% GDP), and, nowadays, the tourism industry makes a significant contribution to the economic growth of Dubai.
The foundation for Dubai’s developmental strategy was laid by Sheikh Rashid, who established the first city council, formed police and security force services, and created the basis for the modern urban infrastructure: electric network, water supply, and sewerage. In the development of Dubai’s infrastructure, Sheikh Rashid kept up with the Western standards. Nevertheless, the further westernization and modernization of the emirate progressed under the rule of Sheikh Mohammed, who focused on the development of the local business and attraction of tourists.
In the 21st century, Dubai became one of the largest economies in the Middle East region. During the past decade GDP per capita has grown significantly (Mayo et al. 21). Dubai’s economy doesn’t depend on oil production anymore. The industries in the emirate are diverse; they include the construction industry, the real estate market, tourism, banking system, wholesale, and retail trade. According to WTTC reports, the number of investments into the tourism industry was estimated over US $5 billion (“Trade, Tourism Spur Dubai GDP Growth” par. 2). And it is expected that the portion of investments in tourism will continue to grow in the future.
The profitability of the investments in Dubai’s real estate has one of the highest indicators in the world. Under Sheikh Mohammed’s rule, a large part of emirate’s budget was allocated for the modernization of Dubai’ infrastructure. The property continues to be highly demanded, and the investments in property exceed billions of dollars. The purchase transactions are made by the investors from over 140 countries. High demands in the property market demonstrate the increasing trust of investors to the Dubai’s market.
The Improvement of Dubai’s Living Standards
“Sheikh Mohammed believed that education was the most effective tool to break the cycle of poverty” (Mayo et al. 11). Nowadays, the UAE education is considered one of the best in the world. Since the end of the 20th century, Dubai’s government contributes the significant portions of its budget to the development of effective education system. The current educational system in Dubai and UAE complies with the standards of the developed countries (Bhayani 76). Sheikh Mohammed focused on the elementary education segment and the provision of the access to education for all children.
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All levels of the UAE education are free. The government emphasized the importance of promotion of literacy programs among adult men and women. Along with free educational settings, there are also commercial schools and qualification centers that support the increase in the level of specialization in different fields of knowledge (Bhayani 78). The efficacy of educational programs in UAE is widely recognized. Nowadays, the population literacy is nearly 90%, and this indicator is rapidly growing.
The population of UAE is nearly 9 million people, and the native population is comprised only of 1 million. The average income of a citizen is about US $4000 per month, and the average income of a qualified specialist starts from US $10.000 (“UAE Economy: Labour Pains” par. 3).
With the development of the economy, the attraction of the expatriate workers becomes a necessity. Nearly a million workplaces for the international workforce are created each year. Most of the employers invite foreigners for the service in the hospitality industry. Millions of low-paid workers from the neighboring countries come to work at the UAE construction sites. Because of the numerous cases of human rights violations, the UAE Ministry of Labor adopted the policies supporting foreign workers in legal terms. UAE government’s efforts help the foreigners feel respected despite the character of their work and the level of their incomes.
Dubai’s community is characterized by internationalization. Since the inflow of the people with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds rapidly grows, the native population sees the threat to the regional cultural heritage in the social diversification. The economic development and modernization provoked inevitable changes in the regional lifestyle. The expansion of tourism and international communication played a significant role in the creation of the West-oriented patterns of development (Aleya and Shammas 149).
Although some people may be against the drastic changes, the regional development affected many aspects of life positively. It may be observed in the increasing emancipation of women, equalization of civil rights, cultural openness, high level of public security, and the enhancement of living standards in the Emirates. It is possible to say that all mentioned aspects contribute to the creation of a new national identity.
The Economic Crisis
In 2009, a year after the crisis influenced Dubai’s economic growth, the emirate was bogged down in debt. This fact affected the global markets and was regarded as a threat to the Dubai’s impeccable reputation as a magnet for the international investments.
The main driver of Dubai’s economy, “Dubai World” requested a postponement of $60 billion debt payment (Mayo et al. 14). The government-owned network, “Dubai, Inc.” received financial aid from the banks of Abu Dhabi. As a result, the economic strategy was exposed to criticism. Nevertheless, Sheikh Mohammed denied the rumors about the emirate’s liquidity.
Despite the numerous difficulties the rulers of Dubai faced during the past decades, the economic and social development achieved significant positive results. Sheikh Mohammed assisted the emirate’s transformation to a great extent. He helped to increase the UAE’s market attractiveness for the foreign investors through the expansion of business, real estate, and tourism sectors, and the creation of the favorable environment for the entrepreneurs. As a result, the economy started to prosper provoking the improvement of living standards in the region, and, according to the financial experts’ expectations, the further Dubai’s development gathers momentum.
Aleya, James, and Nicole Shammas. “Developing Intercultural Intelligence: Dubai Style.” Journal of International Education in Business 6.2 (2013): 148-164.
Bhayani, Ali. “The Market Route to Higher Education in UAE: Its Rationales and Implications.” International Review on Public and Non – Profit Marketing 11.1 (2014): 75-87.
“Dubai GDP to Outdo World.” Khaleej Times 16 Dec 2014. ProQuest. 2016.
Mayo, Anthony, Nitin Nohria, Umaimah Mendhro, and Johnathan Cromwell 2010, Sheikh Mohammed and the making of “Dubai, Inc.” PDF file. Web.
“Trade, Tourism Spur Dubai GDP Growth.” Khaleej Times 2012. ProQuest.
“UAE Economy: Labour Pains.” The Economist Intelligence Unit N.A. 2007. ProQuest. Web.