First with Financial Comment from Arabia

Gulf expatriates absolutely essential to regional prosperity

with one comment

An old Emirati once confided in me, ‘Where would we be without the British?’ I replied noting that British rule had kept the UAE on the breadline and that all the development actually came later.

‘Exactly!’ he said. ‘I mean we would never have made a success of our independence without the British expats who stayed on to run everything. Even now I rent my property to an expat manager and that is how we live so well.’

Expat contribution

This sort of observation is made by wiser heads in the Gulf of Arabia. An openness to expatriate labor and expertise has been highly successful in creating civilized and wealthy societies from oil wealth. There has not been the back to the jungle experience of the former African colonies.

But in more difficult economic times it is easy enough to forget where the wealth has come from in the Gulf and on whom it depends. Calls for an end, or restrictions to expatriate numbers in order to cut unemployment among nationals fall into this category.

If it was a simple matter to transfer the management and workforces of the Gulf into national hands then it would have been done many years ago. Indeed, huge efforts have been made to nationalize the workforce and management with some success.

But a sudden move towards local talent would be a disaster. There is not enough local talent to go around. There would also be a disastrous loss of population as the expatriates left that would hit every business.

Back to the jungle

Look at what happened in Zimbabwe when the white farmers were kicked out. Agriculture went back into the dark ages and the local population went hungry in a country with huge agricultural resources.

Actually the Gulf countries should now be worrying about what a regional recession might mean for population numbers as expatriates lose their jobs, and not even considering how to send expatriates home, or replacing them with nationals.

If any country were foolish enough to adopt such a policy then other Gulf countries would surely open their doors for an influx of expatriate talent and business. Accelerated national decline would be the only outcome for any Gulf state pursuing such a policy, and wiser Emiratis know this well and laugh at the very idea.


Written by Peter Cooper

February 3, 2010 at 10:15 am

One Response

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  1. The correct name of the gulf is “The Persian Gulf”, not the Arabian Gulf.

    How did the British keep what was then the UAE on the breadline? Oil shipments began in the early 1960’s and the economy took off. It wasn’t independence that improved things but the oil wealth.

    Ed Note: Arabian Gulf is also commonly used – one stretch of water with different names like the English Channel and La Manche. This article refers to Arabian Gulf countries and that is the correct term – they are not known as Persian Gulf countries.


    February 4, 2010 at 5:40 am

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