PULLING AHEAD

UAE, Dubai 2013 | DIPLOMACY | REVIEW: DIPLOMACY & POLITICS

Dubai has become world-famous for its skyline and attractiveness as a destination to do global business and host events.

Dubai is an economy that is showing strong signs of recovery, as well as one that wants to be a central hub in world trade. For the first time, the UAE managed to rank among the top 20 most productive global economies, coming in at 19th, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF). This represents a five-place jump on 2012. Higher oil prices have meant that, in September 2013, the government was able to add a further AED700 million to the federal budget, bringing it to AED44.6 billion. A large part of this budget is spent on social services, 39%, while 22% goes to security, 37% on other expenses, and 2% on buildings and infrastructure. Most of the additional funds will be used to finish development projects.

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 the leadership responsibility. Due to being the capital city of the UAE, the ruler of Abu Dhabi has served as the President of the UAE 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 serves as 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, HH Sheikh Maktoum Bin Rashid Al Maktoum. HH 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 and Abu Dhabi maintain a veto on the Council. Decisions are taken 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 on 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 HH Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum. Today, the Dubai Municipality is chaired by HH Hamdan Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Deputy Ruler of Dubai, and brother of HH 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. HH 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, HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, who is the Crown Prince of Dubai, and HH 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. HH Sheikh Maktoum, HH Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed's brother, serves on the board of several media and technology companies in Dubai, while 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 HE Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, HH Sheikh Mohammed's youngest brother and chairman of Dubai World. HH Sheikh Ahmed has been a business leader in Dubai for more than 25 years and serves as Second Vice-Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council and Chairman of the Dubai Supreme Fiscal Committee.

FOREIGN AGREEMENTS

The UAE was founded on the principles of upholding international law and the necessity for respecting non-interferance in the sovereign affairs of other nations. One of the central focuses of the country has been fostering international relations, especially with its neighbors. This is why the UAE has joined numerous international diplomatic and economic organizations, including the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Arab League, the Arab Quartet, the Committee for the Arab Peace Initiative, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries (OAPEC), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), and the UN. Dubai tries to achieve the goals set out by the country, as well as its own targets set out by its rulers. One of the main ways the Emirate is able to contribute is through a series of programs, and by using its worldwide reputation to host conferences on current hot topics.

In May 2013, HH Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum announced the Dubai Vision 2020 aimed at the tourism sector. Its goal is to reach 20 million visitors per year with annual revenues of AED300 billion. Dubai hopes to bolster its status as a key business destination, while also becoming host to more global events and attractions. In line with this Vision, Dubai launched a bid to host the World Expo 2020 with the tag line, “Connecting Minds, Creating the Future." Dubai will have to compete with Izmir, Turkey; Yekaterinbury, Russia; and São Paulo, Brazil, which are all hopeful of hosting the event. The Shanghai chapter of the event recorded over 70 million visitors by the time it had concluded, with sometimes over 1 million people attending in a single day. Dubai will find out if it is successful when the final decision is made in November 2013. Closer to the present day, Dubai signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the World Entrepreneurship Forum (WEF) to host the event in December 2013 with a mandate to develop SMEs, promote entrepreneurial idea exchanges, and build networks within the region. In May, Dubai hosted the Africa Global Business Forum 2013. The movers and shakers of the global business scene converged on the city to discuss how to promote trade and cooperation in the MENA region and beyond, with a key focus on the development of African business.

MODERNIZATION

Dubai is constantly looking at ways to modernize it services in an efficient and cost effective manner. In September 2013, it was announced that the Emirate has a plan to create 24-hour access to government services via its Smart Plan. The idea is that citizens will be able to use their smartphones and other mobile devices to access e-government. By the end of October 2013, over 40 government departments, including the police, courts, and the Road and Transport Authority, will have a roadmap on how they intend to unify their services to provide simple, user-friendly formats for members of the public. Dubai Smart Government will allow departments to have well-defined, mobile-shared services that include authentication, payment, and data exchanges. The new policies will also focus on security as a critical component and address issues regarding accessibility, usability, and content.

The UAE, propelled by Dubai, has established itself as both an economically and politically stable country that many of it neighbors in the region and beyond wish to do business with. The competitive country is moving forward in modernizing its government services as well as branching out internationally to play a more defining role in the globe.