This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

Contents - Previous - Next

PART II. Case study: The United Arab Emirates

Rainer Cordes

1. Introduction

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) federation was founded on 2 December 1971 and is composed of seven members

(see table 2). In size the UAE is comparable to Austria. Its population at the end of 1977 was 862,000 (Annual Statistical Abstract 1977 [UAE, Ministry of Planning

1978], p. 43, table 5). With the exception of the sea trade of Dubai, the economies of the Emirates were dominated until the 1960s by fishing, boat-building, agriculture, and nomad animal husbandry.

The Emirates may be divided into two geographical regions: a rural farming area in the north and east, and a rural bedouin area in the south and west. The latter area coincides for the most part with the emirate of Abu Dhabi, which comprises 88 per cent of the entire area of the Emirates. Therefore, development measures for rural farming areas apply mainly to the northern emirates, and measures for rural bedouin areas apply mainly to Abu Dhabi.

TABLE 2. Area of the United Arab Emirates by Emirate

  m2 km2
Abu Dhabi 26,000 67,340
Dubai 1,500 3,885
Sharjah 1,000 2,590
Ajman 100 259
Umm al-Qaiwain 300 777
Ras al-Khaima 650 1,684
Fujairah 450 1,166
Total 30,000 77,701

Sources: Fenelon 1973, p. 132, table 1; FAO 1973, p. 187; Sadik and Snavely 1972, p. 15, tables 1, 2.

  1. The goals of developmental policies in the United Arab Emirates can be summarized as follows.
  2. a balanced development of all parts of the federation through the planned use of national wealth;
  3. the opening up of the country through development of the infrastructure;
  4. the expansion and improvement of educational opportunities for the native population (school attendance has been mandatory since 1971);
  5. the creation of comprehensive medical care;
  6. construction of appropriate housing;
  7. the diversification of the economy by initiating and expanding economic activities other than oil production;
  8. improvement and expansion of agricultural production while retaining traditional techniques and applying new knowledge to breeding, crop selection and cultivation methods;
  9. the expansion and modernization of fishing and the creation of a fish-processing industry;
  10. the establishment of a petrochemical industry as well as of industries that are not based on the processing of petroleum and natural gas;
  11. intensification of economic co-operation between the states on the Arabian Gulf.
  12. Development in the oil-rich emirates of Abu Dhabi and Dubai is financed to a large extent by their own budgets and the organization and operations are determined by their own governments. However, in the other emirates socio-economic developments are financed through the federal budget, 90 per cent of which is supplied by Abu Dhabi (see The Times, London, Tuesday, 21 June 1977, Special Report, p. 10) and responsibility rests with the federal government.

Strict adherence to the above-mentioned goals by each emirate government and the federal government has led to the following results.

Since 1971 more than 1,500 km of asphalt roads have been completed in the United Arab Emirates. This includes an expressway which links the emirates together and facilitates development within the individual emirates (author's calculation from Public Works [UAE, Ministry of Public Works] 1973, 1975, 1976).

In 1976 the UAE's fourth international airport was opened at Ras al-Khaima. In 1977 Sharjah inaugurated its new airport; another large international airport is under construction near Abu Dhabi Town and will replace the current airport; Dubai International Airport is undergoing expansion; two other international airports, in Fujairah and al-Ain, are in the planning stages.

The harbours in the UAE have been expanded during the past few years or are currently being expanded. In Dubai an industrial harbour is being built at Jebel Ali; Abu Dhabi
expanded Port Zayed from six (1972) to 18 quays (1976); Port SaqrlRas al-Khaima is close to completion and will have five freight quays; Ajman has built a dry-dock; Fujairah has turned its harbour into a deep-water port; a container port is being opened in Khor Fakkan.

In 1953 there was only one school in the Emirates, in Sharjah (Fenelon 1973, p. 98). In 1976 there were 185 schools (Annual Statistical Abstract 1977, p. 287, table 174).

The number of hospitals and clinics for the treatment of out-patients has increased dramatically. In 1976 there were 13 government hospitals and 47 clinics (Annual Statistica/ Abstract 1977, pp. 320 - 321, tables 198, 199); in 1978, two modern hospitals were completed in Abu Dhabi Town; a hospital in Beda Zayed/Abu Dhabi will open soon; a hospital in al-sin planned to open in the middle of 1979.

The Ministry for Public Works and Housing had constructed 2,738 low-cost houses in the northern emirates by March 1978 (unpublished statistics from the Ministry for Public Works and Housing). The governments of Dubai and Abu Dhabi are responsible for the financing and construction of the housing projects. The government of Abu Dhabi had constructed 3,846 low-cost houses by the end of 1975 (author's calculation from Public Works 1973, 1975, 1976). Although every native Emirati has the right to acquire one of these houses free of charge, it is primarily the low-income groups that take advantage of this right.

The capacity of the power stations built by the Ministry of Electricity and Water has increased as shown in table 3.

TABLE 3. Development of Installed Capacity of the Ministry of Electricity and Water, Power
Stations 1972 - 1976

  1972 1973 1974 1975 1976
Capacity in kilowatts 4,634 7,534.6 18,907 28,371.8 64,330.8

Source: Annual Statistical Abstract 1977, p.173, table 103.

8. In 1975 the President of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed, opened a satellite-receiving station in Jebel Ali. It serves as a link in the world-wide telecommunications network. A second station in Ras al-Khaima began operations in 1977.

9. Industrial parks are being created in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Abu Dhabi is establishing a petrochemical industry near Ruweis; Dubai is developing its industry, which will include an aluminium factory and a steel factory next to the new industrial harbour of Jebel Ali; Sharjah has one of the four largest cement works in the UAE; a fish-processing industry is developing in the northern emirates. It should be noted, however, that industrial production represented only 2.5 per cent of the gross national product in 1976 (Jahreswirtschaftsbericht 1977 [Botschaft der Bundesrepublik Deutschland 1978], p.3).

10. The fishing fleet of the Emirates is being modernized. The number of fishing boats was 1,065, and the total catch in 1976 was 64,430 tons (Jahreswirtschaftsbericht 1977, p. 3).

11. Table 4, which summarizes the budget of the federal government from 1972 through 1976 and shows the budgets for two ministries, reflects the efforts toward development.

TABLE 4. Budget of the Federal Government, the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education, 1972 - 1976*

  1972 1973 1974 1975 1976
Total budget 214,402 510,000 865,000 2,278,263 4,151,968
Health budget 12,947 300,538      
Educationbudget 25,591 530,342      

Source: Annual Statistical Abstract 1977, pp. 226 - 235, tables 145 - 149. in thousands of dirhanns 11 dirham = approximately US$0.26).

Contents - Previous - Next