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Dubai: The Vulnerability of Success

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by Christopher Davidson
ECIA Fellow
New York: Columbia University Press, 2008

Dubai has a remarkable success story. Since its origins as a small fishing and pearling community, the emirate has steadily grown in strength to become the premier trading center of the Persian Gulf. It is also the locus of an exciting and innovative architectural revolution. Despite its lack of democratization and a genuine civil society, Dubai is now a booming metropolis of more than two million people, most of whom are expatriates benefiting from the city’s increasingly diversified economy.

Following a detailed history, Christopher M. Davidson presents an in-depth study of Dubai’s post-oil development strategies and their implementation during a period of near-complete political stability. Davidson addresses the probability of future problems as the need for sustained foreign direct investment encourages far-reaching socioeconomic reforms, many of which may affect the ideological, religious, and cultural legitimacy of the traditional monarchy. He also analyzes Dubai’s awkward relationship with its federal partners in the United Arab Emirates and highlights some of the pitfalls of being the region’s most successful free port-its attractiveness to international criminal fraternities, the economy of the global black market, and terrorist networks.