I have witnessed an interesting conversation today, between an Abu Dhabi government official and an international consultant, on the topic of UAE’s immigration policy. The UAE does not adopt citizens – a foreign worker is and will always remain – according to current policy – a transient worker, kindly requested to depart when the labor contract expires.
I thought the risks associated with the current policy can be well illustrated by drawing a parallel with Dubai’s real estate crisis.
Long-term real estate projects in Dubai were fueled with short-term debt, based on an underlying assumption that there will always be sources of financial capital to draw upon when the debts matured and refinancing was needed. The system crashed when the logical fallacy of the premise became painfully evident.
A long-term plan such as Abu Dhabi 2030, is currently fueled by human capital secured on short-term commitments, based on an underlying assumption that there will always be more expatriate talent to import when the incumbents’ contracts end or when the lack of long-term prospects finally drives expatriates away.
While it is difficult to foresee what conditions would make the supply of expatriate talent scarce to a threatening degree, I argue there is little difference between the rationale applied by Dubai in securing financial capital and that applied by Abu Dhabi (and the rest of the federation, including Dubai) in securing human capital.
As an extremely biased observer, much in love with the UAE, I cannot imagine what would need to happen for expatriates not to want to live here. But if enough of them ever do, this country will suffer the consequences of not having been ready to adopt some of the people who helped build it.– This page has been viewed by 574 members –