Most of the seven emirates were very poor
since the pearl industry ended up in crisis. Not until
1958 was oil found in Abu Dhabi and later in two other
emirates. With a beginning of prosperity, the Emirate
became more closely knit and in 1971 the United Arab
Emirates became an independent federation. Abu Dhabi
came to dominate but Dubai could also increase its
influence. Since 1990, extensive modernization has taken
List of most commonly used acronyms containing United Arab Emirates. Also includes historical, economical and political aspects of the country.
The inhabitants of the emirate were still feeding on
agriculture, livestock, boatbuilding and / or fishing in
the mid-1900s. The emirate then was extremely poor. The
exceptions were Dubai, which established itself as a
trading and smuggling center, and Sharja, which received
income from pearl fishing and a British air base. Abu
Dhabi was still poor, but due to its size, a force to be
reckoned with among the emirates.
The year 1958 marked a turning point when oil was
found in Abu Dhabi. Almost ten years later, oil was also
found in Dubai, and in 1974 also in Sharja. As income
from oil exports grew, communities were built up, and
the emirates became increasingly connected to one
another. In 1971, the United Emirates became an
independent state when six of the seven emirates merged
into a federation. The following year also joined Ras
Economic development was rapid throughout the 1970s.
The population increase also accelerated: between 1960
and 1980 the number of inhabitants increased tenfold,
from about 100,000 to 1 million. Growth was 16 percent
annually during the end of the period. The authorities
used the money to make extensive investments in the
development of roads, electricity and water supply,
ports, hospitals and schools. A service sector began to
be expanded. But the development also posed problems.
When oil prices rose in 1974, this resulted in
overheating. Inflation increased to 30 percent per year.
However, rapid economic growth could be maintained
thanks to imported labor.
Abu Dhabi and its ruler Zayid bin Sultan al-Nahyan,
who since independence was the country's president,
sought to strengthen the federation, and in 1973 several
of Abu Dhabi's government members took leading positions
in the administration. In 1976, the armed forces of the
various emirates were coordinated and the constitution
was amended so that the federation could set up a joint
army and buy weapons. In 1978, Dubai and Ras al-Khayma -
after a conflict over how far centralization would go -
refused to contribute to the federal armed forces and
Dubai began importing its own weapons. The conflict was
resolved by the fact that Dubai's emir, who has always
been vice president of the federation, was also
appointed prime minister. Since then, the Emir of Dubai
has always had both of these items.
The Iran-Iraq war outbreak in 1980 was the first
external threat to the United Arab Emirates. Iran
threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, which would
have interrupted oil transports and stripped the
country's revenue. At times, the United Arab Emirates
contributed money to Iraq and on several occasions the
country risked being involved in the war before the 1988
ceasefire eliminated the threat.
In 1987 a coup attempt was made in Sharjah by the
emir's brother. However, it was stopped by the Supreme
Council, which consists of the rulers of the seven
emirates (see Political system).
The country was shaken by an international financial
scandal in the 1990s. The bank BCCI, mostly owned by the
ruling family in Abu Dhabi, went bankrupt in 1991 as a
result of suspected fraud.
In 1996, the city of Abu Dhabi was formally
designated as the capital of the United Emirates in
connection with the temporary constitution of
independence becoming permanent.
The country's president Zayid carried out a
government transformation on his deathbed in 2004, and
for the first time appointed a female member of the
government, Finance Minister Lubna bint Khalid al-Qasimi.
President Zayid had since the late 1990s handed over
much of the power to the eldest son, Crown Prince
Khalifa, for reasons of age and health. The day after
Zayid's death, the other emirs appointed Khalifa as the
country's president. New crown prince in Abu Dhabi
became Khalifa's half-brother, reform-friendly Muhammad
bin Zayid al-Nahyan.
President Khalifa increased the pace of economic
reform and tackled difficult issues, such as land
ownership, that his father chose to avoid.
When the emirate of Dubai's ruler, Maktum bin Rashid
Al Maktum, passed away in early 2006, the federation
also got a new prime minister and vice president. The
posts were taken over by the emir's younger brother,
Muhammad bin Rashid Al Maktum, who had been in charge of
Dubai for a long time.
In December 2006, the United Arab Emirates held its
first political election. More than 6,000 selected
citizens were allowed to nominate half of the members of
the Federal National Advisory Council.