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United Arab Emirates

An estimated 90 percent of the countrys 9 million residents are noncitizens. The total number of non-citizen residents has doubled since 2005. As of 2009 the U.A.E. Government estimated that population at 8.9 million, of whom there were 890,000 Emirati citizens, and expats from India (1.75 million); Pakistan (1.25 million); Bangladesh (500,000); other Asian countries (1 million); European and African countries (500,000). According to the official census conducted in 2005, estimates for the UAEs population for that year range from 4.1 million to 4.6 million. UAE citizens constituted approximately 20 percent of the population at that time.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a federation of seven different emirates which together comprise the third largest economy in the Middle East behind Saudi Arabia and Iran. Its per capita GDP is second only to Qatar. The UAE is an important producer of natural gas and oil, ranking seventh globally in total proven reserves of both.

The Trucial States of the Persian Gulf coast granted the UK control of their defense and foreign affairs in 19th century treaties. In 1971, six of these states - Abu Dhabi (Abu Zaby), 'Ajman, Fujeirah (Al Fujayrah), Sharjah (Ash Shariqah), Dubai (Dubayy), and Umm al Qaywayn - merged to form the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They were joined in 1972 by Ra's al Khaymah. The UAE is a federation of these seven emirates located on the Arabian Peninsula. It has a coastline and seaports both inside and outside the Straits of Hormuz at the entrance to the Persian Gulf.

The total area of the UAE is about the size of Maine. Each emirate is ruled by a Sheikh who not only retains control within his emirate over natural resources, including oil, but also regulates commercial activity. Since hydrocarbon reserves and thus revenues are not equally distributed, the seven emirates are not equal in terms of wealth, power, or level of economic development. Abu Dhabi, the largest oil producer, is the wealthiest and most powerful, followed by Dubai, the federation's commercial center and second largest oil producer.

In 2004, the U.A.E.'s first and only president, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, died. His eldest son Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahyan succeeded him as Ruler of Abu Dhabi. In accordance with the Constitution, the U.A.E.'s Supreme Council of Rulers elected Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan as U.A.E. Federal President. Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan succeeded Khalifa as Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. In January 2006, Sheikh Maktum bin Rashid Al Maktum, U.A.E. Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, passed away and was replaced by his brother, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Minister of Defense. On February 9, 2006, the U.A.E. announced a cabinet reshuffle.

While the UAE did not experience the kinds of demonstrations that characterized the Arab Spring elsewhere, in March and April 2011, activists began calling for greater political rights and a move toward a more democratic political system. Authorities responded by arresting the most outspoken pro-reform voices. In March, the UAE, along with Saudi Arabia, provided support for the military force that helped crush Bahrain's pro-democracy movement.

Approximately 20% of the population are UAE nationals. The rest are expatriates such as Palestinians, Egyptians, Jordanians, Yemenis, Omanis, Iranians, Pakistanis, Indians, Bangladeshis, Afghanis, Filipinos, and West Europeans. According to the UAE government, the literacy rate is 91 percent for females and 84 percent for males. The United Nations has estimated that the overall literacy rate for the population aged 15 to 24 is more than 90 percent. The government has set a goal of achieving full literacy before 2010.

Prior to the first exports of oil in 1962, the U.A.E. economy was dominated by pearl production, fishing, agriculture, and herding. Since the rise of oil prices in 1973, however, petroleum has dominated the economy, accounting for most of its export earnings and providing significant opportunities for investment. The U.A.E. has huge proven oil reserves, estimated at 98.8 billion barrels in 2003, with gas reserves estimated at (212 trillion cubic feet); at present production rates, these supplies would last well over 150 years.

The Dolphin gas pipeline project was formulated in 1999 to bring gas from Qatar's massive offshore North Dome Field to the UAE via a 182-kilometer export pipeline. In its initial phase, scheduled to begin in late 2006, the pipeline is expected to carry 3 billion cubic feet per day of Qatari natural gas to the UAE and Oman, almost 10 percent of total world natural gas supplies shipped by pipeline. This project is important to the UAE's northern emirates, especially Dubai, where natural gas resources are not meeting demand. In addition, the pipeline is viewed as a long-term solution to the rising demand for power and water, because natural gas is the primary fuel for power generation and desalination plants.

In recent years, the UAE has undertaken several projects to diversify its economy and to reduce its dependence on oil and natural gas revenues. The non-oil sectors of the UAE's economy presently contribute around 70 percent of the UAE's total GDP, and about 30 perecnt of its total exports. The federal government has invested heavily in sectors such as aluminum production, tourism, aviation, re-export commerce, and telecommunications. As part of its strategy to further expand its tourism industry, the UAE is building new hotels, restaurants and shopping centers, and expanding airports and duty-free zones. Dubai has become a central Middle East hub for trade and finance, accounting for about 85 percent of the Emirates' re-export trade. The UAE has been a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 1995, and has one of the most open economies in the region. It began negotiations in March 2005 with the United States on a possible free trade agreement.

The United States has enjoyed friendly relations with the U.A.E. since 1971. Private commercial ties, especially in petroleum, have developed into friendly government-to-government ties which include security assistance. The breadth, depth, and quality of U.S.-U.A.E. relations increased dramatically as a result of the U.S.-led coalition's campaign to end the Iraqi occupation of Kuwait. In 2002, the U.S. and the U.A.E. launched a strategic partnership dialogue covering virtually every aspect of the relationship. The U.A.E. has been a key partner in the war on terror after September 11, 2001. The United States was the third country to establish formal diplomatic relations with the U.A.E. and has had an ambassador resident in the U.A.E. since 1974.

In July 2004, the UAE enacted legislation that criminalized the funding of terrorist organizations. The law also increased the amount of time that public prosecutors can hold suspects in terrorism-related cases without charge from 21 days to six months. Terrorism cases are referred to the Federal Supreme Court, which may extend the detention period indefinitely.

In recent years the UAE has emerged as a regional powerhouse, using its financial clout and diplomatic activism to expand its influence from North Africa through the Levant to the Indian Sub-Continent, and indeed globally in financial circles. The November, 2004 death of UAE founder Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan left the field of Abu Dhabi leadership to Sheikh Khalifa, former Crown Prince, who easily became Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the UAE Federation. Next in line, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed (MbZ) became the new Crown Prince, taking over the day-to-day running of Abu Dhabi. The new team quickly set in motion a spirited plan to make Abu Dhabi a well-known financial and touristic epicenter of the region -- all working towards making the Abu Dhabi brand known world-wide.

MbZ's team has consistently touted the benefits of 1) transportation, 2) iconic landmarks, 3) attractive tourist and resort destinations, and 4) sustainable investment. One of the first projects to get off the ground was Abu Dhabi's own international air carrier, Etihad Airways. The idea was to duplicate the success of Emirates, the airline that helped put Dubai on the map as a tourist destination. Initially, Etihad placed an $8 billion order with Airbus, including four A380s, and recently it ordered $9.4 billion from Boeing (35 Dream Liners and ten 777s). Abu Dhabi's iconic character took another step into luxury with the 2005 construction of the $3 billion Emirates Palace hotel, featuring $1,000-a-night rooms and $10,000-a-night suites. The lavish "seven-star" palace sets a tone for other developments, many designed to complement the work of the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, established in 2004 to promote and develop the Emirate's international image as a tourist destination. Finally, with Mubadala as a key tool, MbZ seeks to invest wisely ($200 billion over the next ten years) to ensure Abu Dhabi's position both domestically and internationally.

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Page last modified: 09-12-2016 19:50:14 ZULU