Living in Dubai is like being in the eye of the hurricane.
A few nights ago I was at a party at the Capital Club in the Dubai International Financial Centre, sipping cocktails and making small talk. It was a breezy evening – we still have a few weeks before summer’s assault on the Arabian peninsula – and everyone wanted to take advantage of the ability to be outside.
To the north (Bahrain) and the south (Oman and Yemen) of us, protesters were clashing with government forces. People have died. But life in the U.A.E. has carried on as usual – at least from the vantage of the expat.
The U.A.E. government announced this week that it will spend $1.6 billion on projects to improve infrastructure in less developed emrirates. State media said that the funding came about when Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al Nahayan, the U.A.E.’s president and ruler, went on a tour of the northern emirates last month to get a sense of living conditions. (This took place at the height of the instability in Bahrain.)
Unrest in the U.A.E. is highly unlikely. The relatively small local population has one of the world’s highest wealth per capita at more than $47,000. Locals’ basic needs – and then some – are taken care of by the government.
If there is any unrest, it would come from the less-populated emirates located north of Dubai, which more resemble the U.A.E. of old and less Dubai’s glitzy financial center or Abu Dhabi’s booming global oil hub. There have been small protests in Ras al Khaimah, one of the northern emirates, but security forces quickly quashed those. RAK is important strategically because it sits on the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s oil passes.
The U.A.E. government has also persuaded retailers to lower food prices by as much as 40 percent for the month of March on essentials like tea, sugar, rice, oil, flour and others.
In the meantime, Bloomberg reported something interesting: “States of the Gulf Cooperation Council are working on starting a Marshall-style plan to support Bahrain and Oman, which are facing instability, Al-Qabas reported, without saying where it got the information.
The six members of the GCC are currently holding diplomatic talks on the matter, which may lead to a summit, the newspaper said. The plan aims to raise Omanis’ and Bahrainis’ living conditions, improve their economic and social conditions, create job opportunities for the unemployed and provide homes for the homeless, according to Al-Qabas.”