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Badilisha Lugha KISWAHILI

UAE envisages diversification of economy

15th December 2011
A panoramic view of Dubai
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan

The United Arab Emirates has longstanding programmes to diversify its source of national income that depends on oil and gas revenues, which account for about 30 percent of the Gross National Product (GDP).

Tourism, a rapidly growing sector, now accounts for well over 10 percent of the GDP, with over 12 million visitors a year, stimulating continued growth in the country’s national airlines, in particular, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad, Dubai’s Emirates and Fly Dubai and Sharjah’s Air Arabia.

This was the message from UAE government officials to visiting journalists who attended the country’s 40th independence anniversary.

The UAE seaports, too are contributing to the growth of the tourism sector, attracting dozens of cruise liners a year, although the more conventional seaborne trade and commerce continue to account for most of the UAE’s shipping businesses, along with marine bunkering, where the East Coast port of Fujairah is now the second largest bunkering port in the world.

Education and health services are offered free-of-charge to UAE citizens and a rapid rise in population has necessitated a considerable investment in the education sector.

The UAE offers free comprehensive education to all from kindergarten to university. An extensive private education sector exists for which thousands of students from both sexes pursue courses of higher education abroad at government expenses.

On the morning of December 2, 1971 leaders from six desert sheikhdoms gathered in Dubai and wrote their signatures on a document to the birth of a new nation, the United Arab Emirates or popularly known here by locals as Emirati.

The six who met at a round building in Jumeirah were the rulers of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajma and Fujairah, with the Crown Prince of Umm Al Qaiwain, representing his father, who was ill.

The signing of the provisional constitution brought the UAE into existence, and ended years of torturous negotiations.

The emirates were previously known as the Trucial States and, through a series of treaties’, Britain controlled their foreign affairs.

But in 1968 Britain announced it was leaving the Gulf, and Sheikh Zayeed, the ruler of Abu Dhabi, saw that the states would have to join together if they were to prosper.

Originally, Ras Al Khaimah, Bahrain and Qatar had shown interest in being members of the union, but they caused coaster-nation by opting out. Ras Al Khaimah, joined later, in February 1972.

The UAE population currently stands at 8.9 million residents, less than 20 percent are Emirati, more than one-third are South Asian, and a significant number are from Europe and North Africa.

The UAE has the guiding principles that underline the success of the state, originally laid down 40 years ago, remain in the policies of Emirati. One was that the resources deriving from Abu Dhabi’s oil and gas should be shared across the country in the development of it’s infrastructure in all the Emirates.

The second was that, as Sheikh Zayed put it: “All country’s real wealth is it’s people,” and that in consequence, particular effort should be made to ensure that they should benefit from the best available access to education, health care and social services, to equip them, both, men and women, to play their full part in the country’s growth.

The third principle, in reconciliation of the fact that the UAE was a country that would attract people of many nationalities, was that it should be a country where the spirit of tolerance between those different communities and faiths should prevail, while cherishing and protecting national culture and heritage.

Although firmly committed to the Islamic faith, the UAE is home to over 40 churches and cathedrals as well as places of worship for other faiths.

The fourth principle was for the UAE to seek to promote dialogue, co-operation and resolution of conflicts within the Arab world, broader Islamic community and the wider international community.

In line with the fourth principle, about one hundred (100), journalists from 43 countries converged in the UAE upon invitation from the country’s National Media Council (NMC), from November 28 to the climax of the celebrations on December 2, 2011.

The NMC organized a tour of the country’s tourism attractions such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, catering for about 40,000 people at an instant and Burj Khalifa 280-storey building, said to be the highest tower in the world.

The journalists including two from Tanzania were also given a chance to visit, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi for over five years has started a cultural ambitious project and has already invested tens of billion of dollars. The giant complex will be constructed on Saadiyat Island, situated at 500 m from the city

The future Saadiyat Cultural District will gather the most prestigious museums in the world along with renowned architects, to create a major pole of art and culture all around the world. Four institutions are at the heart of this program: the Zayed National Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Performing Arts Centre and Maritime Museum.

The UAE has the fourth largest oil reserves in the world, producing oil at the rate of around 2.5 million barrels a day, primarily from Abu Dhabi. The country ranks fifth in the world in having gas reserves and remains one of the largest producers of hydrocarbons

A large-scale investment programme is underway to increase sustainable production capacity of both onshore and offshore oilfields in Abu Dhabi.

During the course of 2011 work proceeded according to schedule for the bringing on a stream of new oilfields both in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, according to Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who is the country’s foreign minister.

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