by ‘Nonye Obi-Egbe
United Arab Emirates (UAE) has become the go-to location for work and play. Around Asia, North America and the Middle East, three of the seven Emirates rank among the top for job searches, and when people think of taking some time off, the beaches and lights in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are a favoured destination.
It is interesting to see that this trend started not that many years ago, just around the time that the government started pumping revenue into the economy, setting up basic infrastructure and encouraging state-of-the-art construction all around. The result is that today, the capital – Abu Dhabi and Dubai have become things out of a futuristic movie, the lights, the skyline, everything looks top-notch.
According to Trading Economics, and following the economic slump between 2008 and 2010, UAE gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 4.90 percent in 2012. Nigeria’s GDP on the other hand expanded 6.60 percent in the first quarter of 2013. On average, Nigeria receives more foreign direct investment (FDI) than UAE, yet and in spite of these figures, unemployment increased to 23.9 percent in 2012 while the UAE saw a reduction during the same period to 4.2 percent. In fact, Index Mundi maintains that Nigeria’s foreign exchange and gold reserves about four years ago was higher than that of the UAE until very recently.
In spite of these figures, the UAE has gone on to achieve in leaps and bounds what Nigeria struggles to begin. Round-the-clock electricity is a given, transportation is seamless and easy with metro, buses, taxi, even boats (water taxis) available where necessary. This probably does not extend to the rural areas in that country, but in Nigeria we cannot boast of these amenities in the capital alone, asking for them in other cities, talk more of villages, is almost like asking for the moon.
No one can really say that the government of the UAE does not find ways to spend public funds on personal interests. However, Emiratis may have less to complain about because the government is dedicated to meeting their basic needs, not so here. Our government is only interested in meeting their personal needs and those of their families. Yet who can tell what difference just a little more effort can make? What would happen if the powers that be, just once, decided to let that independent contractor fix that well-worn highway road without demanding some sort of kickback? What would happen if that state government awarded that contract to build a palm processing plant without inflating its original cost this one time? We would all be better off for it – them, and us.
Some would argue, and rightly so, that both countries have vastly different histories and opportunities, and this is true. However, our leadership can borrow a leaf or two from the leaders of the evolving world.