Sheikha Lubna Al Qassimi, the Minister of Economy and
Planning of the United Arab
Emirates, addressed an audience of
Washington-based Gulf watchers at The Henry L. Stimson Center on March 12, 2007.
The event was moderated by Lincoln Bloomfield,
a member of the Center’s Board of Directors and a former Assistant Secretary of
State for Political-Military Affairs.
Describing the economic progress of the Emirates, she argued
that the UAE had diversified its economy over the past two decades based on
lessons learned from previous failures to capitalize on the oil boom of the 1970s.
She noted that even though the UAE was one of the world’s six largest oil
producers, the non-oil sector made up 62 percent of its GDP, with services
alone accounting for half, and brought attention to the country’s open trade
She pointed that Emirati capital was being invested not just
in the West, but also in Asia and the Middle East.
She added that the UAE itself had seen great inflows of foreign direct
investment, showing confidence on the part of foreign investors in the
country’s rule of law and economic governance, and leading to economic growth
and transfer of know-how.
Sheikh Lubna defended Dubai,
the country’s largest city, against allegations that its rapid growth was
unsustainable, saying its rulers were taking calculated risks, adding that
similar concerns in the past had proven unfounded. She stressed that Abu Dhabi, the federal capital, was also making great
strides, giving the examples of the new Guggenheim Museum
to be built there, and the Dolphin Energy project. She argued that Abu Dhabi’s culture and pace of activity differed from Dubai, but that their
endeavors as a whole were complimentary.
On the subject of relations with Iran, she emphasized the UAE’s
commitment to UN Security Council Resolution 1737. She reminded her audience
that the issue was sensitive due to the UAE’s complex history with Iran and the
presence of a large Iranian community in Dubai, and explained that President
Ahmadinejad had support on the Arab street because of his stance on the
Palestinian-Israeli conflict. She also touched upon the violence in Iraq, saying that it was harmful to regional
security, and expressed her desire for Iraq to remain one country.
Sheikh Lubna also spoke about her country’s ties with the United States. She
noted that people in her region wanted to learn from the United States, and
approached it for technology and investment. She also noted the importance of
the American universities in the UAE. She added that trade growth was large, and
that increasing numbers of American tourists and businessmen were visiting the
UAE. She added that the two countries were working closely on combating money
laundering and improving export controls.