Earth & Conservation

How Powerful Is The United Arab Emirates?

With a strong defense system and an abundance of oil, the United Arab Emirates has become a global force. So how powerful is the country?

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) isn't what it used to be. The formerly dirt-poor desert nation now hosts one of the largest economies in the Middle East, with a GDP that's on par with highly developed European nations. What's more, the rapid transformation has taken less than 50 years.

So how powerful in the UAE? Jules Suzdaltsev explains in today's Seeker Daily dispatch.

As with other Middle Eastern states, the UAE's rapid growth in the last 50 years is largely due to petroleum exports, and oil still contributes to about 40 percent of the country's $350 billion GDP. But the UAE's economy is the most diverse in the Persian Gulf and its crown jewel city, Dubai, is a major hub of innovation in technology and aviation.

In recent years, Dubai has become a place to see and be seen. It's by far the most popular tourist destination city in the Middle East. In fact, by some measures, it's the fifth most popular city destination in the world.

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Not coincidentally, Dubai and the UAE in general are extremely friendly to businesses. Within the country's 38 free trade zones, all businesses and corporations -- even those owned by foreigners -- are exempt from all taxes. UAE residents don't pay sales or income tax, either, and property taxes are very low.

Geographically speaking, the UAE is small, about the size of South Carolina. Its population of just over nine million is relatively modest, too. But it's growing fast. The country's population has quadrupled in the last two decades, thanks to huge numbers of expatriate workers seeking jobs in the booming economy. Non-nationals now make up more than 80 percent of the population.

The UAE is rapidly expanding its military, as well. The country's standing army of 65,000 troops isn't very big, but they're supported by a massive military budget. The UAE army is considered one of the most technologically advanced forces in the region. As a close ally of the United States, the UAE has fought alongside American troops more than any other Arab nation.

Internal dissent is rare in the UAE, and the nation is considered largely peaceful. But human rights groups have accused the autocratic government of violent suppression and even torture of dissidents. Those business-friendly public policies have led to widespread abuse of migrant workers, too. While the UAE is undoubtedly an economic powerhouse, its human rights record suggests that the nation is still a long way from international standards of true modernization.

-- Glenn McDonald Learn More:

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Human Rights Watch: United Arab Emirates

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