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Dubai may have generated the biggest splash so far in the Gulf With a skyline like Manhattan, yacht harbors, man-made islands in exotic formations like the Palm Isle, the future tallest building in the world (the Burj Dubai, planned to rise over 2,625 feet), and the world s largest expansion bridge, Dubai has become the place where Saudis shop, Brits tan, and Russians party Other Middle Eastern countries, such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Bahrain, used oil money to establish themselves as international nance centers, dealing with infrastructure nance, wealth management, and insurance* With some luck and proper planning, many of these Middle Eastern petro-states may escape the feast-famine commodities trap that unfortunately has plagued many oil exporters in the past
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* A Bouquet of Desert Flowers, The Economist, September 13, 2007
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After teetering nancially on the brink of collapse in the late 1990s, energy has transformed Russia into one of the world s major power brokers Only a decade after its historic default, the world s number two oil exporter has amassed the third-largest gold and hard currency reserves worth about $600 billion in mid-200837 By the time Vladimir Putin ended his second term as president, soaring oil prices helped Russia s federal budget balloon tenfold since 1999 This resulted in a 6 percent budget surplus with GDP growth of 7 percent and a drop in poverty from 30 percent in 1990 to 10 percent in 2006 This comes as no surprise considering oil and gas represents around 20 percent of Russia s GDP, generates more than 64 percent of its export revenues, and attracts 30 percent of all foreign direct investment38 Internationally, concerns remain that Russia may be using its energy clout to peddle in uence All of Russia s gas is managed by one of the world s most valuable state-controlled companies, Gazprom At present, Europe relies on Russia for over a quarter of its energy needs,
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with Germany importing some 40 percent of its gas from Gazprom Several states from Eastern Europe are even more dependent on Russia for electricity And these trends are projected to intensify signi cantly during the coming decades Some analysts expect that by 2020, Europe will depend on Russia for close to 70 percent of its gas supply39 Putin has made it clear that he sees his nation s vast energy resources as a political tool to recover some of his country s international in uence that was lost after the Soviet Union s dissolution The key to his strategy is Gazprom and the immense leverage it can exert on its Western European electricity clientele Russian pipeline routes encircle the EU from the north and south As we witnessed in the winter of 2006, Russia can turn its gas spigot off anytime it wants to in uence its neighbors When Russia stopped supplying gas to the Ukraine in the beginning of 2006, it prompted immediate gas shortages in European countries because Ukrainian pipelines transport 80 percent of all gas from Russia to Europe40 In countries as far west as France, gas supplies dropped 30 percent to 40 percent41 Fearful of spending the winter without light, heat, and cooking appliances, the Ukrainian government soon reached a deal with Russia to end the supply disruption with a fourfold increase in price42 Russia similarly employed its in uence with Georgia, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Lithuania Further pipeline developments, currently under construction, are even more alarming In the future, they will allow Russia to turn off gas supplies to Ukraine, Poland, and Belarus without affecting more important European customers43 Reinforcing the importance of energy in Russia s global master plan, upon his retirement as the country s president in May 2008, Putin was named the new chairman of Gazprom as well as the country s prime minister, putting an immense amount of Russian power (literally!) in his hands In the same spirit, the Kremlin has atly ruled out ratifying the EU s energy-charter treaty, which would require it to open up its gas pipelines to other countries and other suppliers Just two days after the negotiations, Putin enshrined into law Gazprom s monopoly position as the sole exporter of gas Even more unnerving to the Europeans is the prospect of an equivalent to the OPEC oilexporters cartel, which Putin has recently advanced with several gas players such as Qatar
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