Image Credit: Luis Vazquez/Gulf News

The age of 40 indicates the full maturity of human beings. Hence, many constitutions across the globe, including the US Constitution, stipulate that the age of the president must be no less than 40 at the time of nomination.

That which applies to humans also applies to many other aspects of life.

Humans are the most advanced species on earth, as is evident from the various civilisations we have known. This calls for the studying of each of these experiences and using it to the hilt.

In this context, the UAE on its 40th National Day anniversary presents a successful experience on several levels. The UAE is the model economic experience in the region as a whole. The world notices its transformation from a community in the pre-oil era to a modern country which has all the amenities required for modern life.

Forty years ago, when the rulers under the leadership of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, laid the foundations of the modern state, the domestic economy was backward in comparison to other Arab economies.

However, the great efforts made by the county’s wise leadership led to immense advances in the economic and social infrastructure of the country. The UAE soon became the second biggest Arab economy, surpassing the economies of larger Arab countries with more than double the number of citizens.

One may assume that the accomplishments were a result of the country’s oil wealth. But, despite the undeniable importance of oil revenues, the UAE was still able to surpass many oil producing countries which had exported oil for many years before it. This shows that the UAE’s success is not due to its oil wealth alone, as it is a unique development model encompassing a mixture of wisdom, wealth, devotion, and will to challenge all difficulties.

Taking into account a number of development indicators, we find that the UAE has achieved the highest growth rate in the region over the past 40 years. The country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has doubled multiple times to almost billion Dh1100. This speedy growth has been accompanied by the diversification of the economy, in which oil accounted for more than 75 per cent of the GDP in the early stages of the UAE’s establishment.

However, this has dropped to 40 per cent now, something that distinguishes the UAE from other oil producing countries across the globe.

With the speedy growth of the country’s GDP, the income share per capita income of the individual has become one of the highest in the world, despite the doubling of the population over the past two decades.

This diversity has led to the growth and development of traditional sectors such as trade and property. Moreover, it has created new sectors that have played a major role in diversifying the economic base of the country.

Both the industrial and financial sectors are at the top of the list of economic sectors.

The UAE owns some of the biggest aluminium factories in the world, with the annual production of both Dubai Aluminium Company Ltd. (DUBAL) and Emirates Aluminium (EMAL) reaching about 2.5 million tons.

As a result, the UAE has become the biggest aluminium producers in the Middle East and one of the biggest in the world. 

At the same time, the country has emerged as the trading hub in the region.

Over the past 40 years, the UAE has transformed into an international financial centre, and a vital point for transport and communication between different continents. It has also become a tourism destination and attracts many celebrities.

There have been great strides in the areas of services, education and health, which are a result of some of the best infrastructure in the world.

This great transformation in the country’s economic and social structure has resulted in a powerful and continuous development push which in turn reflects the will of the man who established the country, a country where no obstacle, no matter how difficult, is insurmountable.

As a result of his sheer determination, a strong economic structure emerged, overcoming all regional and international obstacles. And this inflicted serious damage on old, large economies.

As a proof of this success, the UAE continued to develop despite the Iran-Iraq War which broke out only 10 years after the establishment of the Union, and was followed by the second Gulf War and the invasion of Iraq.

And despite the sudden and big drop in oil prices in 1984 and 1998 (to less than $10 per barrel), the UAE’s economy continued achieving positive growth rates. This was a result of its flexibility, which was the outcome of a diversified economy. 

The experience of overcoming these difficulties presents another model of the domestic economy’s ability to weather bigger storms such as the international economic crisis of 2008, and the European debt crisis of 2010 and 2011, the repercussions of which continue to this day.

And at the time when old financial and economic establishments collapsed, and the economies of many countries across the globe broke down resulting in stagnation and millions of unemployed people, the UAE and other Gulf economies remained intact.

What’s more, these economies achieved new growth rates despite the fact that some previously booming sectors – such as real estate — were affected. 

Once again the reason for this strength is not attributed to the rise in oil prices over the past three years; it is due to the diversification of the economy. Without the country’s economic diversity and ability to absorb shock waves, oil alone will be unable to save the domestic economy from the repercussions of the international economic crisis.

And despite the fact that the financial sector sustained some losses because of its globalised nature, the foundations of the financial sector remained strong and capable of achieving profits. This reflects the strength of this sector in particular and the durability of the UAE’s domestic economy in general.

Furthermore, containing the repercussions of the international economic crisis and the European debt crisis played a great role in stirring economic growth and overcoming the consequences.

This placed the UAE among the countries to be relied upon to revive the international economy. All this is based on the strength of the UAE’s economy, which has achieved high growth rates over the decades.

The importance attached by countries across the globe to the UAE is another motivation for the nation to achieve speedy growth rates and to further diversify its economy.

This also places the UAE’s experience among the most important development experiences in the world. The UAE can be a role model not only for its Arab neighbours but also to all developing countries.

Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.

Dr Mohammad Al Asoomi is a UAE economic expert and specialist in economic and social development in the UAE and the GCC countries.