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The United Arab Emirates (UAE) comprise the seven member states of
Abu Dhabi, the capital city, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Quwain,
Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah.
The total area of the Federation is about 83,600 square kilometers,
much of it in Abu Dhabi emirate. Dubai, with an area of 3,885 square
kilometers, is the second largest emirate. Situated on the banks of
the Dubai Creek, a natural inlet from the Gulf which divides the city
into the Deira district to its north and Bur Dubai on its south, the
city ranks as the UAE's most important port and commercial center.
The UAE has 700 kilometers of coastline, of which 100 kilometers are
on the Gulf of Oman. Along the Arabian Gulf coast there are offshore
islands, coral reefs and sabkha, or salt-marshes. Stretches of gravel,
plain and barren desert characterise the inland region.
To the east, a range of mountains lies close to the Gulf of Oman and
forms a backbone through the Mussandam Peninsula. The western interior
of the country, most of it in Abu Dhabi, consists mainly of desert
interspersed with oasis.
UAE has a sub-tropical, arid climate. Rainfall is infrequent and
irregular. Falling mainly in winter, it amounts to some 13 centimeters
a year. Temperatures range from a low of about 10 degrees celsius
to a high of 48 degrees celsius. The mean daily maximum is 24 degrees
in January rising to 41 degrees in July.
to the Ministry of Planning, the population of the UAE expanded from
2,083,100 in 1993 to 2,230,000 in 1994. The workforce grew from 856,100
to 906,000. The population of Dubai was estimated to be 605,000.
According to the latest
survey in 1996, the total residents in Dubai were estimated to 872,000
of which 126,000 were National, while 746,000 were Expatriots in
the ratio of 15:85.
The official language is
Arabic. English is widely understood and ranks alongside Arabic as
the language of commerce.
Supreme Council of the UAE, comprising the hereditary rulers of the
seven emirates, is the highest federal authority. It is responsible
for general policy matters involving communications, education, defence,
foreign affairs and development, and for ratifying federal laws. The
President, HH Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahayan, who is also Ruler
of Abu Dhabi, and the Vice-President, HH Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid
Al Maktoum, who is also Ruler of Dubai, are elected by the Supreme
Council from among its members.
The Federal Council of Ministers, responsible to the Supreme Council,
has executive authority to initiate and implement laws. The Federal
National Council is a consultative assembly of 40 representatives
who are appointed for two years by the individual emirates. The council
monitors and debates government policy but has no power of veto.
While Abu Dhabi is the centre of federal government activities, most
ministerial departments also maintain offices in Dubai.
The UAE became a member
of the United Nations and the Arab League in 1971. It is a member
of the International Monetary Fund, the Organisation of Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC), the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade
(GATT) and other international and Arab organisations, including the
Arab Gulf Co-operation Council (AGCC), whose other members are Saudi
Arabia, Oman, Qatar, Bahrain and Kuwait. In its foreign relations,
the UAE's stance is one of non-alignment but it is committed to the
support of Arab unity.
In matters unrelated to
diplomacy and defence, each emirate enjoys considerable autonomy in
managing its own affairs. In business, the government of Dubai is
committed to liberal, free market policies and to the creation of
a business environment conducive to commercial activity. This approach
is well illustrated by the incentives available to investors in the
Jebel Ali Free Zone and by the continuing high level of public sector
investment in the infrastructure.
THE DUBAI MARKET
businesses interested in developing their trade with Dubai will find
that the market has a number of attractive features, as follows:
- Large. Despite
a relatively small population, Dubai's total imports in 1994 exceeded
$14 billion. The reason is that Dubai is the major re-export centre
for the region.
- Growing. The
emirate's non-oil imports expanded by 200% between 1986 and 1994.
Many of the economies of the region served by Dubai are still
at a relatively early stage of development, so there is plenty
of long term scope for diversification and expansion in the future.
Another important consideration is Dubai's rapidly developing
role as a supplier to such emerging markets as India, the CIS,
Central Asia and South Africa.
There is potential for almost any type of goods and services.
In the prosperous, but sparsely populated Gulf states, there is
demand for foodstuff, high technology equipment and luxury products.
But, through its re-export trade, Dubai also reaches an "outer
ring" of less prosperous markets. This means there are also opportunities
for manufacturers and exporters of less sophisticated equipment
and mass consumer products.
- Free. There
are no foreign exchange controls, quotas or trade barriers. Import
duties are extremely low, and many products are exempt.
The emirate's transport infrastructure is unrivalled in the region
in terms of size, facilities and efficiency. Its ports are served
by more than 100 shipping lines and the airport by 65 airlines.
Also, overseas businessmen will find that their counterparts combine
local and regional expertise with a full understanding of international
business practices. English ranks on a par with Arabic as the
main business language of business and there are plenty of foreign
banks, lawyers and other advisors - as well as the Dubai Commerce
and Tourism Promotion Board, The Economic Department, Chamber
of Commerce and Industry and Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority to
help those wishing to enter the market.
Inevitably, the various attractions outlined above have caught
the attention of manufacturers and exporters from around the world.
Any exporters seeking success in the Dubai market must ensure
that their products can hold their own in terms of their price,
tech-nology, design and value, just as in any other market of
There is no corporate tax
in UAE. The only exceptions to this are oil producing companies and
branches of foreign banks. Likewise, there are no personal taxes.
Direct taxation is against the traditions of the UAE and it is highly
unlikely that it will be introduced in the near future.
There are no exchange controls
in the UAE and its currency, the UAE dirham, is freely convertible.
The dirham is linked to the USA dollar, the currency in which oil
revenues are paid. The current exchange rate is Dh. 3.675 - US$ 1
and no revaluation has occurred since 1977.
Banking and Finance
The regulatory authority
since 1980 has been the UAE central Bank. Some 47 commercial banks
operate, with a total of around 350 branches, of which about 28 are
foreign banks with a combined total of more than 200 branches. Federal
law restricts foreign banks to no more than eight branches each.
Trade Marks and Patents
Towards the end of 1992,
the UAE President enacted three Federal Laws on the protection of
industrial and intellectual property. These laws came into effect
in 1993 and provide protection against commercial piracy and fraud.
The laws are: Federal Law No. 37 of 1992 on Trademarks, Federal Law
No. 40 of 1992 on Protection of Intellectual Property and Copyright,
and Federal Law No. 44 of 1992 on Protection of Industrial Property.
There is a comprehensive
framework of legislation to ensure that business in the UAE is conducted
in a fair and orderly manner. There are laws dealing with commercial
transaction, intellectual property, labour and other aspects of business
Dubai has many local and international law firms willing to advise
foreign business organisations on legal matters.
There are Federal Courts in all emirates except Dubai and Ras Al Khaimah,
which have retained their local courts. Dubai has civil, criminal
and Shariah (Islamic) Courts of first instance. All court decisions
may be brought to the Dubai Court of Appeal. Thereafter, a final appeal
may be made to the Dubai Court of Cassation.
The Civil Court (as opposed to the Shaiah Court) has jurisdiction
over labour, civil and commercial transactions, as well as personal
matters (e.g. wills, divorces etc.) relating to non-Muslims. The language
of the Courts is Arabic and advocates admitted to plead are Arab nationals.
and foreign visitors - both male and female - can enjoy a relaxed
and pleasant lifestyle in Dubai. There is virtually no crime, the
city is clean, there are few traffic jams, apartments and villas are
modern and spacious and, surprisingly to many, the climate is not
only tolerable, but also extremely pleasant for most of the year.
There are many clubs and societies in UAE. Freedom of worship is allowed
to all religions, and Christian churches have existed in Dubai for
many years. Foreign newspapers, magazines, films and videos are readily
available. Alcohol may be consumed at home, in hotels, and on licensed
club premises. Women can drive and move about unaccompanied.
is a comprehensive network of government schools throughout the emirate,
providing free primary and secondary education to UAE nationals.
The Ministry of Education runs 34 boys' schools, 32 girls' schools
and 10 kindergartens. These work to an Arabic curriculum. There are
also 27 private institutes and 22 evening schools for adults.
For expatriate families, there are 79 private foreign schools offering
education of a high standard to the curriculum requirements of the
UK, USA and a number of others including Italy, Japan, Iran, India
and Pakistan. In neighbouring emirates there are French and German
schools. English is usually the main language of instruction, but
other languages are used as necessary by foreign schools.
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