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National Day report 2004 - In sync with the future

posted on 02/12/2004: 1577 views



The United Arab Emirates is no longer trying to catch up with the rest of the developed world. Driven by a diverse economy that fosters international investment, the current period is characterised by the construction of large-scale projects such as huge tourism-related projects, office and residential towers, industrial parks, souqs and shopping malls.



At the same time, new residential areas are being developed to meet the needs of a growing population, roads and other facilities are being upgraded and links with the outside world, through the UAE's many ports and airports (vital components of trade and tourism), are constantly being improved.



The population, which increased from 250,000 in 1971, to an estimated 3.75 million by the middle of 2003, requires all the facilities a modern developed state can provide. Today, that dream has been realised. About 85 per cent of the population lives in contemporary urban areas. This figure is expected to rise to 96 per cent by 2030.



Telecommunications, electricity, water and sewage networks, educational and health facilities are among the best available. Funds allocated to federal investment projects over the past ten years amounted to Dh14.382 billion. During this period, the lowest level of investment, Dh931 million, took place in 1996, while the highest rate of investment Dh2.136 billion, was recorded in 2000.



According to statistics released by the Ministry of Information and Culture in 2002, Dh1.365 billion was used for investment programmes. This represents an increase of 38.4 per cent over the Dh986 million paid out in 2001. At the same time, Dh500 million was spent on housing projects under the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme.



In October 2003, plans for the Dh292 million federal ministries complex to be built in Al Bateen in Abu Dhabi were approved. The 1,000 square metre complex of traditional Arabic and Islamic design will have 16 federal ministries, in addition to a conference centre, a theatre, an exhibition hall and a training centre. Work will be completed by 2005. Over the past 34 years, Abu Dhabi has spent more than Dh150 billion on infrastructure and other development projects.



Actual expenditure for the first half of 2003 rose to Dh3.9 billion, as against Dh3.3 billion for the corresponding period in 2002. The transport, storage and telecommunication sector ranked highest in terms of volume of spending with a total of Dh790 million, followed by the real estate sector at Dh723 million, agriculture and fishing at Dh691 million and community and social services at Dh590 million.



Dubai Municipality's revenue for 2002 was Dh1.47 billion compared with a figure of Dh1.28 billion during 2001, an increase of 14.3 per cent. In 2002, it spent Dh447.3 million on new roads compared with Dh586.9 million in 2001. Expenditure on building and housing projects increased in 2002 by 25.6 per cent to reach Dh36.95 billion, while spending on general projects amounted to Dh199.9 million in 2002.



Dubai Municipality has ambitious plans to develop the Al Jaddaf area as a residential, commercial and entertainment area. Three-storey residential blocks will accommodate about 34,000 people. Commercial buildings will be six to ten-storeys high.



The municipality also plans to develop Deira Corniche along five square kilometres of beach between Al Hamriyah Port and Port Rashid. The area will have a new frontage costing Dh3.307 billion. Land will be available for development of new entertainment, commercial and residential areas.



Dubai's population is expected to reach three million in 2020 and studies show the number of vehicles on Dubai's roads will increase by threefold in the near future.



The municipality is constructing a 1.5-km tunnel, which is one of the longest and widest tunnel in the Middle East, as part of its new Dh686 million road network around Dubai Airport. Work on a fourth Dubai Creek crossing, which will begin this year, is expected to cost about Dh450.



Construction of Dubai's Dh14 billion Light Rail Transport system is set to start early next year following an increased awareness that road widening alone will not solve Dubai's traffic problem.



While Dubai has already announced it will have the world's tallest building on Sheikh Zayed Road, one of the most important announcements in 2003 was the launch of the Dh19 billion Dubailand project — the next logical step in the emirate's efforts to add more depth to its tourism sector.



Dubailand will be built on a two billion square foot area along Emirates Road. The venture is expected to attract about 200,000 visitors daily and will boast the biggest mall in the world, the Mall of Arabia.



The northern emirates, including Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah, are all developing and expanding their infrastructures to facilitate residential and tourism development. While Sharjah is working on a project to supply piped natural gas to residential and industrial units at a cost of Dh500 million, work on Ajman's Dh515 million sewerage project is also progressing steadily.



Water and electricity

Vital social services, such as hospitals and schools, as well as the tools of economic diversification such as tourism, agriculture and industry, are all dependent on continued investment in the water and electricity sector.



Electricity production and capacity has been growing steadily. Total electricity production increased by 8 per cent from 40,118 million kilowatts per hour (kw/h) in 2000 to 45,119 million kw/h in 2002. About 97 per cent of production is fuelled by gas and the remaining 3 per cent is produced by diesel generators or steam turbines.



The UAE is now the world's third largest per capita water consumer after the United States and Canada, and water consumption is expected to increase by 44 per cent to 3.2 billion cubic metres by 2025. Annual water consumption is estimated to be 2.2 billion cubic metres, which includes 24 per cent domestic and drinking consumption.



Telecommunications are extremely well developed in the UAE. ETISALAT, the sole provider of telecommunications, is placed in the top 500 richest companies in the world in terms of market capitalisation — the first UAE firm and one of only three Arab firms in the category on the Financial Times Index.



Telecommunication

ETISALAT's paid up capital was increased to Dh4 billion in 2002. Apart from the oil sector, ETISALAT is the highest single contributor to federal funds in the country.



Landlines have risen from 1.035 million in 2001 to 1.094 million in 2002, an average of 32 lines per 100 people.



ETISALAT was one of the first to introduce a mobile phone service to the Middle East in 1982 and its GSM service, launched in September 1994, has proved extremely popular.



Its number of mobile phone subscribers has crossed the three million mark. The number of its Internet users is more than 1.8 million.



ETISALAT has committed more than Dh3.1 billion to the development and modernisation of telecommunication infrastructure over the next two years and much of this will be spent on development of the mobile network, both for GSM and UTMS and the next-generation networks (NGNs).



Airports and aviation

The UAE is serviced by six international airports located in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah and Fujairah. A seventh airport is planned for Ajman.



The aviation industry is also well developed with world-class carriers, Emirates and Gulf Air, and new airlines such as Etihad and Air Arabia, both established in 2003, as well as the aircraft leasing company Oasis and aircraft maintenance company GAMCO.



More than 40 passenger carriers operating scheduled flights from about 90 destinations worldwide serve Abu Dhabi International Airport.



Dubai International Airport is one of the busiest in the region. There are more than 70 airlines servicing Dubai with connections to more than 110 cities worldwide. A Dh1.9 billion expansion programme that began in 1997 resulted in the opening of the state-of-the-art Sheikh Rashid Terminal in 2000. The airport has the capacity to handle 22 million passengers annually but according to projections, 40 million passengers are expected to use the airport by 2010. Therefore, the Department of Civil Aviation has begun the second phase of expansion at an estimated cost of Dh9.1 billion to be finished by 2006. This will lead to the opening of Terminal 3 and Concourses 2 and 3.



Sharjah International Airport, which started operating in 1932, is the oldest in the country. Today, it welcomes a monthly average of 100,000 passengers, providing all the services and facilities one would expect from a first-class international airport.



Seaports and shipping

Due to its strategic location on the Arabian Gulf, maritime trade has been a feature of the region for thousands of years. Today, the country is served by 15 commercial ports, including oil terminals with a total capacity of more than 70 million tonnes, as well as many smaller harbours.



The UAE's ports export oil, raw materials and finished goods worldwide, import goods and raw materials for local industry and consumers, and channel the country's re-export and redistribution trade to other economies around the Gulf, East Africa and the subcontinent.



In addition, the UAE ranks among the top five locations in the world for ship suppliers and bunkering and is gaining a strong reputation for its ship repair facilities. (The Gulf News UAE National Day Supplement)

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