A vibrant world city and regional hub, Dubai is poised to play a critical role in the 21st century. The Emirate is the largest by population and fastest growing in the UAE. Over the last century, Dubai evolved from a small fishing village known for the pearl trade to a thriving energy producer. Today, Dubai has invested its wealth from oil and gas in economic development and transformed itself into a center in the Gulf region for shipping, ICT, media, and services. With its focus on infrastructure development, including the construction of the world’s tallest building and largest airport terminal in the world, the Emirate has also established itself as a regional leader in commerce, transportation, and tourism, providing extraordinary standards of quality and a world-class experience to increasing numbers of tourists and business elites. Boasting some of the world’s most luxurious hotels and serving as a regional headquarters for major technology, financial, and media multinationals, Dubai has successfully leveraged its location and unique cosmopolitan mix of nationalities. Known as the “City of Gold,” due to its robust gold market, Dubai offers leisure and business travelers unparalleled amenities such as the opportunity to stay in one of the world’s few seven-star hotels or fly in style on one of Emirates’ new Airbus 380s.
UAE GOVERNMENT STRUCTURE
Governed as a federation of constitutional monarchies since its independence from the UK in 1971, the UAE includes Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras al-Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm al-Quwain. The government of the UAE is guided by a federal constitution that establishes the privileges and duties of the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of the national government as well as reserving substantial powers and autonomy for the governments of the individual emirates. The balance of power between the emirates at the national level corresponds to the size and influence of each emirate, with Abu Dhabi and Dubai assuming the largest share of leadership responsibility. As the capital city of the UAE, the ruler of Abu Dhabi has served as the President since the country’s formation, with the ruler of Dubai serving as the Prime Minister and Vice-President. The constitution of the UAE also establishes the rights, freedoms, and duties of Emirati citizens and gives the federal government responsibility for foreign policy, international economic policy, and national security.
HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum is the Ruler of Dubai as well as Prime Minister and Vice-President of the UAE, positions that he has held since 2006 following the death of his older brother, Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Sheikh Mohammed is also a member of the UAE’s Supreme Council of the Union, the highest executive body in the UAE, consisting of the rulers of each of the seven emirates. The UAE’s Supreme Council is responsible for formulating and implementing national policies regarding budget and fiscal policy, national security policy, and international agreements and treaties. Dubai, along with Abu Dhabi, maintains a veto on the Council. Decisions are made by a majority vote, except for certain substantive issues requiring a minimum of five votes, including the vote of Dubai and Abu Dhabi.
In 2011, the UAE held parliamentary elections to fill 20 positions on the Federal National Council, the primary legislative and advisory body for the federal government. With the goal of promoting increased political participation, the government of the UAE expanded the electoral college to more than 129,000 eligible voters, up from approximately 6,500 in 2006. A total of 469 candidates contested the election, including 85 female candidates. Four elected representatives and an additional four representatives appointed by the ruler represent Dubai in the 40-member body.
DUBAI MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT
Since 1833, Dubai has been under the leadership of the Al Maktoum family. The local government of Dubai, or the Dubai Municipality (DM), was established in 1954 by Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Today, the Dubai Municipality is chaired by Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and brother of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. The DM oversees local government entities such as the Roads Department, Planning and Survey Department, Environment and Public Health Department, and Financial Affairs Department. Sheikh Hamdan also serves as the Finance Minister of the UAE, and has led UAE delegations to the IMF and OPEC. Two of Sheikh Mohammed’s sons, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, who is the Crown Prince of Dubai, and Sheikh Maktoum Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, assist their father and uncle with the administration of DM as deputy rulers of Dubai. The Crown Prince also serves as the Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council and head of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Establishment for Young Business Leaders. Sheikh Maktoum, Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed’s brother, serves on the boards of several media and technology companies in Dubai as well as working closely and traveling with the President and Prime Minister of the UAE on foreign trips.
Another key royal family member and leader in municipal public affairs is Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Sheikh Mohammed’s youngest brother and chairman of Dubai World. Sheikh Ahmed has been a business leader in Dubai for more than 25 years as well as serving as Second Vice-Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council and Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee.
Dubai not only uses its economic wealth for business and trade, but also for international aid. In 2007, Dubai launched the Dubai Cares platform, a philanthropic organization with the aim of contributing to the UN Millennium Development Goals aimed at reducing poverty in developing countries through improving education levels and gender equality. The primary focus of Dubai Cares is to improve classroom conditions and the quality of education in poor and developing countries. Although the program originally aimed to raise AED200 million, contributions far exceeded this target, totaling more than AED1.7 billion, or some $463 million.
Dubai Cares has partnered with other international NGOs and aid organizations such as the Melinda and Bill Gates Foundation, Care International, Medecins Sans Frontieres, Oxfam, Partnership for Child Development, Plan International, Room to Read, Save the Children, UNICEF, UNRWA, WaterAid, and the World Food Program.
The organization shares the view of the UN Millennium Development Goals that education is the best way to lift societies out of poverty and is working to achieve universal primary education and significant improvements in equal gender access to education by providing aid to more than 7 million students in 28 countries. Describing his country’s humanitarian efforts on his website, Sheikh Mohammed says, “our aid has humanitarian objectives only; it is never governed by politics or limited by the geography, race, color or religion of the beneficiary. We provide humanitarian capital and are a major relief station for the poor; we do not hesitate to help and support the brother, the ill-fated friend, or the needy wherever they are. This is our message to the world, and this is the United Arab Emirates.”
Dubai is also playing an increasingly important role in the world of global sports and horse racing. Thanks to the support of Sheikh Mohammed and his love for sports, Dubai now hosts numerous international competitive events, including the Dubai Tennis Championships, the Dubai Desert Classic golf tournament, the Dubai Rugby Sevens, and the Dubai World Cup. The Dubai World Cup, established in 1996, has a $10 million purse for the winner, making it the world’s most valuable horse-racing prize. An accomplished athlete and horseman himself, the Ruler of Dubai strongly supports the development of Dubai as an international sports destination and hopes to increase the sports offering in the coming years.
In the realm of international affairs, the UAE maintains cordial relations with neighboring countries and projects its stability and focus on economic development internationally. Despite the difficulties faced in the Gulf region over the past few decades, including the Iran-Iraq war, the occupation of Kuwait, and the US invasion of Iraq, Dubai and the UAE have managed to steer clear of conflicts and maintain stability during difficult periods of regional turmoil. In an interview with TBY, Reem Al Hashimi, Minister of State, emphasized that the UAE has “a positive and extremely open relationship with all countries around the world.”
While the UAE maintains good relations with the US and the West, Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah Bin Zayed Al Nahyan has made the case for expanding relations with rising economic powers. He said in a recent speech that the UAE “look[s] forward to bolstering our relations with fast growing countries, such as India, Russia, China, Brazil, and South Africa.” Looking forward, Dubai hopes to bolster its profile yet further with its bid to host the World Expo 2020. Supporters of Dubai’s candidacy argue that the Emirate is a crossroads of culture and ideas, and that its geography and rapidly developing infrastructure make it a central location to bring together countries from the north, south, east, and west. When looking at the Emirate’s ambitious growth over the past five decades, it is easy to understand how it has developed into a central part of the global economy.
© The Business Year