Thursday, September 25, 2008

Tsunami Hits The UAE!

I sent a family friend off at the airport after tarawih tonight. My villa is about ten minutes away from Dubai International Airport but it took 45 painful minutes to reach. The unusual traffic jam was very bad as thousands of Dubai expats rushing to balik kampung for Raya!

It was at least 5 km traffic jam from my villa and worse from two other directions, Garhoud bridge and Deira area which the crawling vehicles converged into a single lane to the departure hall.

I had to circle around and drove through maze of back lane, to avoid the snail pace on all main routes. Our friends had to literally run to the terminal few hundred meters away through crowded space. Time was ticking before the final call.

Astonishingly, from my observation, the same number of passengers on both departure and arrival terminals.

That's Dubai for you. And most of the faces are of course, foreigners, especially from South Asia region, they are the majority among the diversified residents here while males outnumbering females, 4 to 1.

Not surprising some prominent Emirati academics are voicing out their concerns on the 'TSUNAMI' that hits this expatriate land of opportunities. Their fear is not unfounded as they are not only minority, their country is under attacks demographically from all directions.

National identity faces 'tsunami' of challenges
By Samir Salama

Abu Dhabi: High growth rates, obsession with international role models and unbalanced local-federal relationships could undermine the UAE's national identity, Emirati academics fear.
They urged to find a formula that would balance high growth rates and economic diversity on the one hand with protecting national identity on the other.
"Our national identity faces a tsunami of challenges and difficulties made by Emiratis and foreigners alike. Many Emiratis are worried about their future and I believe it's time to stop, breathe and think over the development process," said Dr Abdul Khaleq Abdullah, professor of Political Science at UAE University, Al Ain.
Dr Abdullah told a roundtable discussion, held at the Federal National Council about the challenges faced by the national identity, that the UAE had a unique position.

"We should belong to the UAE Federation in the first place and not to an emirate or local identity. Loyalty in good and bad times should be to our homeland and not to a group of emirates."

He fears the local identity is growing by the day at the expense of the federal identity.
"Local departments, local investments, local services, local budgets ... all take priority, while all that is federal is declining. This unbalanced local-federal relationship could undermine national identity."
Dr Abdullah also warned that the UAE's obsession with international standards and role models is also a major threat against the national identity.
"Our plans and strategies are worked out by foreign experts. Developing our Parliament is given to foreign consultants, all our 2020 and 2030 plans are done by foreign experts, education development is also in the hands of foreigners. This expertise comes with its problems," he added.
Dr Abdullah told Gulf News: "With each new development initiative comes new investment opportunities, and more demographic risk factors at the same time. Each development project worth Dh100 billion brings to the country 100,000 expatriates.
"If the investment is worth Dh2.2 trillion in two years, that means 2.2 million expatriates will come to the country, more than three times the number of nationals."
According to a recent Labour Ministry report, the more than 3.1 million foreign workers make up more than 90 per cent of the workforce in the UAE.
Dr Mouza Gobash, professor of Sociology at the UAE University, thinks Emiratis run the risk of becoming a minority in their own country.
"A political decision is needed to stop the influx of foreign immigration into the UAE and reduce the pace of steadily growing growth," Dr Gobash said.
"We are selling lands and properties to foreigners. We are crying over three islands taken by Iran, even though we are selling entire cities," she added.

Expat growth widens UAE demographic gap

The ratio of foreign to local population in the UAE has remained high in the past years and is expected to widen in the future because of a rapid growth in expatriates, official figures showed yesterday.
The country's total population was estimated at around 4.48 million at the end of 2007 and is projected to grow 6.12 per cent to nearly 4.76 million at the end of 2008 and by 6.31 per cent to 5.06 million at the end of 2009, showed the figures by the Ministry of Economy.
Dubai is projected to outnumber Abu Dhabi for the first time at the end of this year and in 2009, while Sharjah will remain the third largest populated emirate.

The figures showed the 2007 population comprised 864,000 UAE nationals and 3.62 million expatriates, up from 839,000 nationals and 3.39 million foreigners in 2006. The bulk of them are based in Abu Dhabi and Dubai.
A breakdown showed the native population grew by around 2.9 per cent in 2007 while growth in expatriates was 6.9 per cent.
In 2008, the local population is forecast to grow by 3.2 per cent against 6.8 per cent for the expatriates while growth in natives next year is projected at 3.4 per cent and in the foreign population at nearly 6.9 per cent.

The higher growth in the expatriates boosted their ratio to the whole population from around 80.1 per cent in 2006 to 80.7 per cent in 2007. The report projected the ratio to rise to 81.2 per cent in 2008 and 81.7 per cent in 2009.

Experts attributed the rapid expatriate growth to their high number and an influx of foreigners over the past few years because of the economic boom. They noted that growth in the local population is considered high given their relatively low number, which has more than doubled over the past 15 years.

The figures showed Abu Dhabi was the most populated emirate in the UAE at the end of 2007, with a total 1.493 million people. Dubai was second, with around 1.478 million, followed by Sharjah, with nearly 882,000.

But the report forecast Dubai would outnumber Abu Dhabi in 2008, as its population will rise to 1.59 million while Abu Dhabi will have 1.55 million. Dubai, the Middle East's commercial and business hub, was projected to maintain that status in 2009, with its population projected to reach 1.722 million.

Abu Dhabi's population was forecast at 1.62 million.

At the end of 2007, Abu Dhabi was the most populated emirate while Umm Al-Quwain was the least populated, with around 52,000.
Dubai had the largest ratio of expatriates in 2007, standing at 75.8 per cent, while Umm Al Quwain had the lowest ratio of 61.5 per cent.
The UAE has recorded one of the highest population growth rates in the world over the past two decades but this has not affected its per capita income because of the rapid nominal growth in its economy.

From around Dh76,600 in 2006, the country's per capita income more than doubled to Dh162,000 in 2007 after its gross domestic product leaped by around 17 per cent from Dh624 billion to Dh729bn.

The income is projected to swell further this year as the GDP is expected to make similar leaps because of a surge in oil prices.
The report showed the UAE population included 3.08 million males and 1.4 million females at the end of 2007. The breakdown is projected at 3.28 million males and 1.47 million females in 2008 and 3.5 million males and 1.58 million females in 2009.

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