Friday, January 06, 2006

As Dubai thrives, an eye on political reform ::

Fellow blogger, Secret Dubai, sends this link (above).

Key quotes:

Now jammed with gleaming skyscrapers, modern roads, and international corporations, Dubai, almost uniquely among Arab states, has created a modern, diverse economy. It is proof that political liberalization and natural resources are not pre-requisites for development, analysts say.
. . .
Yet despite its material success, due largely to the foreign workers who make up more than 80 percent of the population, the UAE remains politically medieval. Political power is based on family and wealth alone. With no significant directly elected public body, it is arguably less democratic than even neighboring Saudi Arabia.

In December, the UAE's president promised to create a democratically elected parliament. Political analysts say that concrete action will be needed as an increasingly educated populace demands greater political participation and accountability.
. . .
So far, however, the UAE has avoided the attacks on Western targets by Islamic radicals that have taken place in other Gulf states - to the annoyance of some Islamic militants who use the anonymity of the Internet to vent their rage.
"What I've seen on the Internet forums is some impatience as to why they're not targeting the Emirates on the grounds of it being a fairly Western society," says Stephen Ulph, a senior fellow at the Jamestown Foundation, citing Internet postings from Spring 2005.

"They accused the rulers of permitting the construction of churches, of actions contradicting sharia, and of allowing women to wear jewelry," says Mr. Ulph. The Islamists also posted a photograph of the aircraft carrier USS Kittyhawk refueling in the city's Jebel Ali port.

"One reason the Emirates have been left untouched is that Dubai is still a useful place for the illicit transfer of funds - for example through the hawala system," says Ulph, referring to the traditional paperless money-transfer system believed to play a key role in terrorist financing.
. . .
Although traditional pastimes such as camel-racing and falconry still survive, young locals who aspire to be 'Western' are increasingly turning to drinking, drug- taking, and prostitution - although even kissing in public is technically illegal.

Recent articles in The Gulf News, the country's leading English-language paper, report other societal woes. Last week, the paper reported that the divorce rate is now 48 percent - one of the world's highest - while the letters page is full of complaints against rising crime, endless traffic jams, and spiraling house prices.
Since few own, perhaps that should be housing prices, not house prices. As far as "turning to prostitution" surely that means young men turning to the services of prostitutes. What is true is that local papers rarely state that it is young locals who are misbehaving - but the CS Monitor just did. This story about Abu Dhabi hooligans is likely about locals.

I don't perceive a great demand for rapid political reform. Few want to risk what appears to be a conservative system that has, by appearances, worked. They look to the example of Kuwait where the elected officials appear to be too willing to take the welfare state to unsustainable,even catastrophic levels, in order to get reelected.

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Blogger Tim Newman said...

Dubai, almost uniquely among Arab states, has created a modern, diverse economy.

Compared to the rest of the Middle East, maybe. But whilst there is still the restriction that (with the exception of a few free-zones) any company must have a local owner, the economy can be never be described as modern. The day I am able to register a business in the UAE without first finding a local partner or sponsor is the day that Dubai can claim to have a modern economy.

12:09 PM  
Blogger sheikha cheryl said...

The clash between modernization, tradition, and islam will most likely end in violence sooner or later. Someone, somewhere won't be able to stand the fact that the UAE is peaceful and accepting of the Western world.

11:20 PM  

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