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Tue 19 May 2009 02:45 PM

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Time to celebrate expat achievement

Why the Gulf’s multicultural business community is one of its greatest strengths.

If you ask any Gulf leader their three main priorities for government, they will answer: diversification, diversification, diversification. Of course, what they really mean is ‘globalisation, globalisation, globalisation’. They have built so that people will come, not just from elsewhere in the Gulf, but from the US, Europe, and Asia.

Dubai, in particular, has become renowned for its monetarily motivated multiculturalism; as a meeting point halfway between the great business empires of West and East, and one which has attracted so many outsiders that the emirate’s indigenous population now accounts for just ten percent of residents, according to some reports.

In the wake of the global economic slump, and likely recession in at least half of the six GCC economies, some are bemoaning the region’s rush to globalise.

After all, if the Gulf wasn’t so dependent on foreign investment, then the credit crunch would have been something that happened to other people. Blame Wall Street for the woes of Sheikh Zayed Road – and those unscrupulous US mortgage providers, too.

But the fact is that once you start to go global, there’s no turning back. You close your borders and drop off the economic map (North Korea), or you embrace the wider world and the global business community, and experience both the highs and the lows of the global economic rollercoaster. From interconnectedness grows interdependency, and so the ride begins.

Fortunately for the Gulf, and despite current concerns, there have been more thrills than spills so far. And such has been the enormous swelling of the Gulf business community over the last decade, local firms have found themselves able to attract high-profile executives and management from beyond GCC borders.

As the profile of the Gulf city-states soared, so the region became a magnet for ambitious professionals from around the globe.

Some were lured by large tax-free salaries on offer in the Gulf. The majority, however, were attracted by the opportunity to make a real difference; to contribute significantly to the decade of unprecedented growth the Gulf enjoyed up to the second half of 2008; to break new boundaries in a region that swiftly became known for its ‘anything is possible’ mentality.

Today, that mentality has been tempered by harsh economic reality, and the Gulf’s expat community has been hit hard by the downturn. Tens of thousands have been forced to return to their home countries, unable to stay in the GCC because of visa regulations stipulating that if you’re not actively contributing to the Gulf economic machine, it’s time to move on.

Those on our Expat Power 50 list, published May 24, are unlikely to be heading home any time soon. They have established themselves as key figures across a range of industries and sectors crucial to the ongoing development of the Gulf region.

They are the elite, the in-demand, standard bearers for the Gulf’s burgeoning expat community. They sit with sheikhs and they consort with kings, strategising and bringing their international expertise to bear on a region that despite its outstanding growth and undoubted potential, has only relatively recently been recognised as an economic bloc of genuine influence.

That emergence has been steered by the vision of Gulf leaders, and their determined pursuit of globalisation. However, the GCC would not be where it is today was it not for the efforts of its expatriate community: the outsiders who came to the desert, bringing the rest of the world along with them.

It’s about time we celebrated their achievements, and acknowledged their leading lights.

For full details of the Expat Power 50 list CLICK HERE.

Geriant 10 years ago

"The majority, however, were attracted by the opportunity to make a real difference; to contribute significantly to the decade of unprecedented growth the Gulf enjoyed up to the second half of 2008" Naivete returns to the pages of Arabian Business with this whitewash. How many people came to this region to "make a difference"? About none. Make a buck, yes, and in doing so influence economies building on pearling and trading, yes. But the only difference 99.9 per cent of expats wanted to make was one to their bank balances. That the locals only make up a fraction of the inhabitants is now coming home to roost, like the capital going home to do same.

mustafa 10 years ago

I do agree with Geriant that most people come to this region to make a buck but in the process of making a buck you as well contribute to the growth of nation and nowdays this is what happening everwhere, even in our own countries majority people working for a buck and to add to their bank balances

Steve 10 years ago

Hogwash! You where lured here by the tax-free salaries, admit it. Perhaps partly by fleeing London's dreadful wheather, not to metion its even crapier housing. Your Expat Power 50 list is comparable to "Hello" Magazine's list of "Best Dressed" - So UK expat...

Dave 10 years ago

Geriant and Steve It is clearly obvious why you are here. It goes without saying that yes making extra money is a definite positive for coming to the region but if this alone is what makes the decision for you then you shouldn't be here. My decision was based on not just money but ability to advance my career, being involved in a country that is growing at a an amazing rate and watching history happen around you, being part of a multicultural society, being closer to Europe and the Americas for travel (I am an Aussie). Don't assume that we are all here for one reason only.

Geriant 10 years ago

So Dave is getting all moist about Dubai, and it is good to know that the 0.01 per cent speaks, and can read and write. I guess coming from Australia Dubai really is a cultural feast. And seeing history being made is a treat, rather like Atlantis. But Dave and his ilk are still here for the money. The quaint use of Dubai as a travel hub is a nice touch.

Arnie S 10 years ago

Too much fluff from happy clappy expats who have spent too much time wrapped up in the cotton wool of too much debt and who can't face the fact that eventually they will have to come out of their ignorant little hibernation. 'Expats' is another delusional word for what the vast majority of people (with the obvious exception of the emiratis are) in Dubai are. Immigrants or economic refugees are more accurate terms. Expats? Hah! Get real.

Sand Jockey 10 years ago

....then you are going to be very disappointed. That is what I used to tell my staff (back when I worked for a Fortune 500 company) when they arrived in the Middle East. I then told them that if they came to work hard, make money, advance their career, get quality family time, and maybe, must maybe, make a small difference, then they were in the right frame of mind and would enjoy their tour. I know some of the folks who are (purportedly) on the list and not a one came out here to make a difference. Oh sure, they may have made a difference in the course of events but let's be real. SJ

Realist 10 years ago

Steve, Don't forget the advantage of your passport being mistaken for the professional qualification.

Jaafar Khan Patan 10 years ago

Money is not the only attraction that brings ppl here, we also have the weather, human rights, the culture, equality and many other aspects as well. sure there are many who come here to make a +ve difference. God Bless them. Seriously now, people come here with the notion that they will strike it rich within a few years or at least make good money, and then go back home financially secure. A minority does hit it big, thanks to hard work or otherwise, and decide to give back a little, through donations etc (with no interest in boosting their image at all). will be interesting to see this list. Should serve as a role model for the rest of us.

Dr Nabeel 10 years ago

Almost every ‘foreigner’ came here for the money, and there is not wrong with this fact. It is a ‘Gold Rush’. Saying that foreigner came here to make a difference, is a fallacy.