Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success

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Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success
By Christopher Davidson
Columbia University Press, 2008
320 pp. $32.50
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The emirate of Dubai is the size of Rhode Island but has twice the number of people, who live in a sandy stretch of desert abutting the Persian Gulf. Of this number, only 17 percent at most, and possibly as little as four percent, are nationals. The overwhelming majority of those living in Dubai are Filipinos, Iranians, and South Asians, with some Westerners, too. They are the work force, from laborers to technicians and traders, and are expected in time to return to their home countries. Per capita GDP is probably around $50,000, but for those few actual Dubai nationals, the figure might well be double that or more. Is all this the result of the fabulous fossil-fuel wealth nature has bestowed on the Arabs of the Gulf? Not quite. Dubai's oil and gas reserves were always modest by Persian Gulf standards and are declining. Rather, the creation of this fabulous entrepôt state stems from a trading mentality rooted in history, plus a number of bold entrepreneurial steps taken by Dubai's rulers (and this although Dubai is not even sovereign, being only the second most important emirate, after Abu Dhabi, in the federal system that is the United Arab Emirates). Davidson offers a detailed historical and topical study of the Dubai phenomenon, including due attention given to "the vulnerability of success."