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State structure

The Head of State of Abu Dhabi is the federal head of state of the UAE. He chairs the Supreme Council, which is made up of the heads of state of the seven emirates and is the supreme authority of the federation under the 1971 constitution, finally adopted in 1996. The centre of power lies in Abu Dhabi. The country has two female ministers: for economic affairs and for social affairs. At the federal level, government policy is also largely influenced by the ruler of Abu Dhabi and his family. Foreign policy and education in particular are federal affairs. Many of the other policy areas have shared responsibility. The Federal Council of Ministers consists of representatives from the various emirates. This also applies to the Supreme Court and the Federal National Council (FNC). The officials are appointed by the local authorities.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktouem is the current Prime Minister and Vice President of the United Arab Emirates and the Emir of Dubai.


The UAE is a country where Islam and Arab identity are in the foreground. However, the country is averse to fundamentalism and tries to create a tolerant and liberal society. It is to the personal credit of President Sheikh Zayed that the federation has remained politically united and has become an economic success. Traditionally, there has been fierce political competition between the different tribal societies, while the economic differences between oil-rich Abu Dhabi and the smaller dependent emirates have only grown in recent decades. Currently, however, there is a trend towards further economic and also political integration. For the current political situation, see the history section.


The UAE has the second largest economy among the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries after Saudi Arabia. Because the UAE has not nationalised the oil industry, the country benefits from the latest technologies being developed by the multinational oil companies. The UAE is highly dependent on oil revenues, so the current economic policy is aimed at diversification and privatisation. The government also tries to create employment for the growing indigenous population (emiratisation). Promoting employment in the private sector and limiting the number of foreign guest workers play an important role in this.

The currency traffic is free and apart from a standard import tariff of 4% there are hardly any trade restrictions. Most foreign companies choose Dubai as their regional centre. A large number of trade fairs take place there. The Jebel Ali Free Zone has expanded enormously from about 200 establishments in 1991 to about 1000 companies today, including five Dutch ones. In this Free Zone, 100% ownership for foreign companies is possible, where in the UAE this is limited to 49%. Economic growth is about 0.8% year-on-year (2017). GDP per capita is $68,800 (2017). Thanks to oil, the UAE has a huge surplus in its trade balance. Japan and India are the main trading partners.


Elmar Landeninformatie

CIA - World Factbook

BBC - Country Profiles

Last updated May 2024
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