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UAE Progress: National Day Report 2003

posted on 29/11/2003: 1726 views

From Barren Desert to Land of Plenty in 32 years

UAE Progress: From Barren Desert to Land of Plenty in 32 years ABU DHABI--The UAE celebrates its 32nd National Day on 2nd December 2003 with a sense of pride for the strong foundations of its Federation, the cohesion of its people and for the prominent status it occupies in regional and international forums. The UAE achieved a comprehensive development since its inception on December 2, 1971 and had progressed in a record time from an unknown country, barely visible on the world map, into a modern state that provided comfortable life, prosperity and stability to its citizens.

The political system of the UAE, which comprises the seven Emirates of Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ajman and Fujairah, constitutes a harmonious and integrated blend of time-tested Arab traditions, modern state apparatus and constitutional authorities. The constititutional authorities consist of the Federal Supreme Council, the highest political authority of the country, the Council of Ministers as the Executive body, and the Federal National Council as the legislative body, in addition to the judicial authority, which is enjoys full independence as stipulated by the constitution.

His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan holds the country's Presidency and the Chairmanship of the Supreme Council since the establishment of the UAE, while the members of the Supreme Council include H.H. Sheikh Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Sharjah, H.H. Sheikh Saqr bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Ruler of Ras Al Khaimah, H.H. Sheikh Rashid bin Ahmed Al Mualla, Ruler of Umm Al Qaiwain, H.H. Sheikh Humaid bin Rashid Al Nuaimi, Ruler of Ajman, H.H. Sheikh Hamad bin Mohammed Al Sharqi, Ruler of Fujairah.

Since taking the office of Presidency, H.H. Sheikh Zayed has used the country's oil wealth for the development the UAE and for upgrading the life of citizens, thus making huge achievements in a very short time. Successive plans for sustainable development have been implemented for the establishment of hundreds of projects for modernisation, development, services provision, setting up of residential towns, modern metropolis, building hospitals, clinics and health centres, schools and universities.

Huge projects have also been carried out for the construction of necessary infrastructure, roads and bridges and tunnels, provision of electricity and water, communications and telecommunications and other basic services, thus making the UAE in par with developed nations. Oil wealth has always been regarded by H.H. Sheikh Zayed not as an end unto itself, but as a means to facilitate the development of what he believes is the real wealth of the country - its people, and particularly the younger generation. As he stated: "Wealth is not money. Wealth lies in men. This is where true power lies. The power that we value.. this is what has convinced us to direct all our resources to building the individual, and to using the wealth with which God has provided us in the service of the nation, so that it may grown and prosper."

The UAE paid great attention to the development of the status of women in the light of the President's deep conviction that women constitute half of the population and that all the society's capabilities, including men and women, have to be mobilised for the country's development. UAE women today play their part in the country's development through the General Women Association, GWA, led by H.H. Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, President's wife and GWA Chairwoman. Women contribute to the country's overall advancement in all fields standing shoulder to shoulder with men, while adhering to the country's centuries-old traditions and the teachings of Islam.

Women have also occupied high posts and participate in the country's decision-making. One of the latest institutions created for the women's welfare is the setting up of the Higher Council for Child and Motherhood according to a decree issued by the President in July 2003. Emphasizing the role of women, H.H. Sheikh Zayed "...As women constitute 50% of the society, it is impossible to achieve progress without women. Hence, we have provided them education on all levels to give them proper education and training. Women have made great achievements through the General Women Union and other Women organisations."

H.H. Sheikh Zayed has shown his satisfaction of what has thus far been achieved on several occasions. Looking back at the progress of the country a quarter of a century later, Sheikh Zayed said: "...that which has been accomplished has exceeded all our expectations and that, with the help of God and a sincere will, confirms that there is nothing that cannot be achieved in the service of the people if determination is firm and intentions are sincere."


The UAE has gained international respect for its wise and balanced foreign policy and its integrity in dealing with issues on bilateral, regional and international levels. The country's foreign policy formulated by H.H. Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan is based on the country's identity as a GCC member and Arab and Islamic country as well as the UAE's desire to have friendly ties with all countries of the world. It is also based on transparency, dialogue, honesty, having good neighbourly relations, mutual respect and non-interference of others internal affairs.

The UAE believes in resolving disputes through peaceful dialogue and abides by the UN conventions and all international norms. It also stands by the right and justice and contributes positively in supporting international peace and stability.

The UAE has worked since the creation of the Gulf Cooperation Council, GCC, in 1981 to consolidate relations among the member states and to achieve the GCC peoples' aspired integration in various fields as well as working towards a unified stance on political, economical and cultural ties with regional and world nations. The UAE endeavours towards achieving full integration among GCC states through bilateral or group meetings in order to serve the common interest of GCC people. In this regard, Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, signed with You Bin Malawi bin Abdullah, Omani Foreign Minister, in Soar on 11 October 2003, the minutes of ratification of the final border agreement between the two countries signed on June 2002 in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Hamdan described the agreement as a culmination of the deep-rooted fraternal ties between the two countries and an example to be emulated by others in resolving conflicts and border disputes. The UAE pursued flexible policy in ending the Iranian occupation of the three UAE Islands of Greater and Lesser Tunbs and Abu Musa by peaceful dialogue or by reference to the International Court of Justice. The UAE continued to pursue such a peaceful means since Iran's occupation of the Islands on 29 and 30 November 1971, following the declaration of the UAE Federation.

The UAE stance is supported by GCC states, Arab countries and the International Community. In an important speech on 6 October 2002, H.H. Sheikh Zayed expressed his hope that Iran would respond to the UAE's peaceful initiative aimed at resolving the issue through dialogue. He said that the next stage should be one of serious bilateral talks aimed at achieving positive co-operation on the bilateral and regional levels, following the positive atmosphere created by the visit of Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan to Iran and expectations of the upcoming visit of President Mohammed Khattami to the UAE.


H.H. Sheikh Zayed devoted a lot of his energy and time to achieve reconciliation between Arab countries through understanding and tolerance, thus making the consolidation of Arab solidarity a prominent feature of the UAE's Foreign policy and highlights Sheikh Zayed's status as a pioneer for Arab nationalism and Islamic solidarity. Sheikh Zayed had repeatedly warned against the continuation of the conflict and disunity of the Arab nation, saying "Since the beginning of Arab differences until today I have not slept a single night with comfort." Sheikh Zayed kept calling Arabs to review their situation, take suitable decisions on vital Arab issues and resort to reason and wisdom to avoid disasters.

Talking to Arab Parliamentarians who ended their 38th meeting in Abu Dhabi on 26 February 2001, Sheikh Zayed affirmed the UAE's support for anything that would unify Arab ranks and enable them meet the challenges, particularly after going through a number of set backs and losses. The Palestinian issue comes at the top of the UAE's foreign policy agenda, particularly in supporting Palestinian rights for establishing their independent state with Jerusalem as its capital.

The UAE has repeatedly and vehemently condemned the genocide committed by Israeli occupation forces in Palestine since the flare up of the Palestinian Intifada in September 2000, while extending generous humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people to alleviate their suffering.

The UAE also implemented dozens of projects in Palestine to enable the Palestinian people to continue their resistance and struggle to free their land from occupation, to prevent health and public services sector services from collapse and to maintain the Arab and Islamic identity of the Palestinians against the Judaisation onslaught of the Israeli state. Sheikh Zayed had donated US$ 27 million for the reconstruction of 800 houses in Jenin refugee camp after it had been destroyed by the occupation forces.


Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, visited the U.S. from 28 to 31 October 2003 and held talks with U.S. President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condolezza Rice, Secretary of Treasury John Snow, and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Richard Mayers. Sheikh Hamdan's talks with U.S. administration focused on developments in the Middle East and peace initiatives, the situation in Iraq as well as bilateral ties.


The UAE affirmed its solidarity with the Iraqi people after the war and supporting the Iraqi people's efforts aimed at reconstructing their country and gaining control of their land and running its affairs. Under the directives of President H.H. Sheikh Zayed, the UAE extended huge humanitarian assistance to Iraq through successive airlifts and land convoys. The UAE Red Crescent Society, RCS, alone delivered relief supplies valued at Dh 100 million, while the UAE sent 22 aircraft, 48 vehicles and two ships all laden with supplies. It also set up hospitals and water desalination plants. Sheikh Zayed described the Iraqi people as "dear and generous", calling Arabs to stand by Iraq at its hour of need.

He also called upon Iraqi political, religious and social personalities to be unify their ranks, put aside differences and work towards a future based on love, fraternity and wisdom. Sheikh Zayed warned against any delay of the reconstruction process of Iraq, saying that Iraqi people alone were authorized for the building of their country. He also appealed to coalition states to speed up returning the sovereignty of the country to the Iraqi people to enable them to shoulder their responsibility towards their country. Sheikh Zayed re-iterated the UAE's firm position on the independence, sovereignty and territorial unity of Iraq as well as the right of the Iraqi people to decide the destiny of their country.

The UAE contributed US$ 215 million for the Iraqi reconstruction during the meeting of donor countries on Iraq held in October in Madrid. The UAE welcomed a delegation of the Iraqi Governing Council in August and pledged its support for the Council's efforts aimed at forming an Iraqi government and drafting a new constitution for Iraq.

It also welcomed the formation of the Iraqi government on September 2, describing it as a positive step toward enabling the Iraqi people to run their own affairs and restore the stability and security to the country. The UAE played a significant role in extending political, moral and financial support to many countries in the world, thus helping the return of security and stability to countries like Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia Herzegovina and others.


The UAE condemns terrorism in all its forms and justifications out of its faith in the peaceful co-existence between all religions and the need for tolerance and consolidating the feelings of love and peace among mankind. Hence, Sheikh Zayed shuns all forms of religious extremism, violence and terrorism against humanity whatever the motives. He always emphasizes that Islam is a religion of tolerance, love, forgiveness and kindness.

In the light of this belief, Sheikh Zayed condemned the Sept 11 attacks on the U.S., while condemning at the same time the terrorism of Israel against the Palestinian people, calling upon the International Community to address the Israeli terrorism as well. In a telephone conversation with U.S. President George Bush, Sheikh Zayed affirmed the UAE's rejection of all forms of terrorism, saying, "Terrorism is loathsome in the eyes of Islam and all other religions and it is a bitter enemy of humanity as a whole." Sheikh Zayed underlined that solidarity against terrorism should be based on firm principles and not on double standards, urging the U.S and the International Community to stop Israeli terrorism in Palestinian territories so that world countries should not feel injustice.

The UAE had equally condemned the explosions that targeted Saudi Arabia and Morocco last May and affirmed its solidarity with these two Arab countries. It also expressed its support for all measures taken by these two countries in order to maintain the security and stability of their states and eliminate terrorist acts.


The UAE has diplomatic relations with 145 countries around the world. It is a member of more than 25 regional and international organizations and a party to more than 50 major international conventions and agreements. On the bilateral level, the UAE has entered into 65 avoidance of double taxation and protection of investments agreements, 65 air transport and civil aviation agreements and 52 cultural, information, educational and technical cooperation agreements. The number of resident Foreign Embassies in the UAE reached 71 compared to only 3 in 1971 which were UK, U.S and Pakistan.

The number of Consulates in the country also totalled 52 in Dubai, in addition to five offices of regional and international organisations. There are also 35 non-resident Embassies to the UAE, while the UAE has 44 Embassies around the world as well as two permanent missions in New York and Geneva and seven consulates.

Consulates Since its inception in the early 1970s, the UAE extended more than Dh 106 billion as assistance and loans to developing Arab, Asian and African countries. The UAE's external assistance constitutes 3.5 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product, GDP, and exceeds the minimum assistance set by the UN by 0.07 per cent.

The UAE assistance is channelled through a number of organisations such as the Abu Dhabi Development Fund, Zayed Foundation for Charity and Humanitarian Works, the UAE Red Crescent Society and other humanitarian organisations as well as some regional and international funds and institutions. The Abu Dhabi Fund extended Dh 19.25 billion since its inception in 1971 to finance around 245 projects in 56 countries.

The aid consisted of loans, gratis and assistance. The Zayed Foundation also provided humanitarian assistance to the tune of US$ 148.34 millions. Zayed Foundation's main focus is the construction of mosques, Islamic research centres and Islamic studies centres. It also builds hospitals, health centres, orphanages and extends assistance areas affected by natural catastrophes.

The total value of assistance provided by Zayed Foundation to local projects topped US$ 58.72 million, while implementing many projects in the Arab world at the cost of US$30.22 million and carried out humanitarian projects in 22 African countries to the tune of US$ 12.13 million in addition to projects in 11 European countries at the total cost of US$ 30 million. For its part, the RCS implemented projects in 95 countries around the world.

The value of relief supplies and projects carried out in several parts of the world stood at Dh 322.14 million in Palestine, Dh 142.3 million in Iraq, Dh 55.82 million in Afghanistan, Dh 134.5 million in Bosnia Herzegovina and Dh 120 million in Kosovo.


The UAE has taken great strides in economic, social and technological fields over the last 32 years under the wise leadership of President Sheikh Zayed. Since the formation of the UAE, the national economy recorded giant growth with the National income increasing from Dh 4.7 billion in 1972 to Dh 229 billion in 2002, growing at the rate of 14 per cent, while the per capita income reached Dh 61,000 in 2002. The GDP, considered one of the most significant indicators of the economic growth, rose from Dh 6.5 billion in 1971 to Dh 284.3 billion in 2003, growing at an average rate of 13 per cent.


The proven oil reserves doubled over the last three decades, growing from 30 million barrels in the 1970s to 98 million barrels in 2002, making the UAE the third largest country in oil reserves in the world. The gas reserves also rose from 626 cubic meters in the 70s to 6 trillion cubic meters, making the UAE the second in the Arab world and the fourth worldwide. The value of oil sectors' share of the GDP grew from Dh 4.1 billion in 1972 to Dh 85 billion in 2003.

Non-oil sectors also played a remarkable role in country's economic development with its contribution to the GDP rising from Dh 2.3 billion in 1972 to Dh 199.2 billion in 2002, increasing at an average rate of 4.4 per cent. Export commodities surged from Dh 5.3 billion in 1972 to Dh 213 billion in 2003, imports from Dh 2.2 billion to Dh 170 billion, giving the UAE a trade surplus of Dh 43.2 billion in 2003 against Dh 3.1 billion in 1972.

Banks with a total budget of Dh 333.24 billion made a great contribution to the country's economic development. There are 21 national banks operating in the UAE with 345 branches and 36 foreign banks with 86 branches. The share of productive sectors such as agriculture, industry, construction and electricity and water contributed Dh 140 billion to the GDP in 2002 compared to Dh 5 billion in 1972, growing at the rate of 11.7 per cent.

The services sector also witnessed a tremendous development with a GDP of Dh 85 billion against Dh 1.1 billion in 1972, increasing by 15.6 per cent, while educational, health and social services sectors achieved a total value of Dh 35 billion in 2002, with an average growth of 17.2 per cent. The UAE has given a special attention to the economic aspect for being the foundation of development and a prime source of income and employment.

Hence, the government allocated a great percentage of the general income to finance huge developmental projects, while federal and local governments provided necessary support to the private sector's investment activities in order to increase its efficiency to implementing projects. This has resulted in a large increase of investments, totalling of Dh 60 billion in 2002, showing 12.6 per cent annual growth. The country's sound economic growth was testified by a delegation from the World Bank, which visited the UAE in May 2001.

The delegation stated that the economic growth of the UAE was considered a tremendous achievement not only in the Arab world but also on regional and international levels. In its report of 2003 on trade and investment in the Middle East and North Africa, the World Bank also hailed the UAE's policy on diversification of its income and lack of reliance on oil as a sole source of income.

The report affirmed that major economic growth rates in the UAE came as the result of investments on non-oil sectors such as petrochemicals, fertilizers, cement and aluminium and lately in tourism, storage, trade and industry sectors. The report asserted that the UAE encouraged liberal trade as an impetus for development as the Emirate of Abu Dhabi boosted energy-based industries, while Dubai developed the sectors of trade, tourism, communication and finance, and Sharjah had relied on textile, lighting industries, while other northern Emirates focused their investments on agriculture, masonry, cement and maritime shipping.

The selection of the UAE as the venue of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund Board meetings of 2003, was a testimony to the status of the UAE in world economy. 184 government delegations as well as 15,000 experts and media people attended the Dubai 2003 held from 17-24 September 2003. WB and IMF officials hailed the good organization of the meetings as one of the officials commented "Switzerland will need the expertise of Dubai when it organises the upcoming round of the WB and IMF meetings."


The manufacturing sector played a vital role in the government's strategy of diversifying production sources in order to lessen the country's dependence on oil as the only source of income. The total contribution of the manufacturing sector to the GDP stood at Dh 72.7 billion in 2002, registering an annual growth of 4.5 per cent. The investment value in the sector, which employs 12.9 per cent of the country's manpower, totalled Dh 10.4 billion.

The number of factories increased over the last 30 years from 2153 in 2000 to 2509 in 2002. Citizens had their direct contribution to the country's economic development through their active trading in stock markets with a trading value of Dh 200 billion distributed over 50 companies in banking, services, industries, insurance, real estate and communications sectors.

The country's federal budget made an astonishing rise from Dh 201 million in 1972 to Dh 23.3 billion in 2003. Priority in the allocations of the budget was given to public services, education and health sectors. The educational sector received Dh 5.9 billion, or 20.25 per cent of the national budget, while health services sectors got Dh 1.73 billion, or 7.43 per cent. At independence the country owned only seven hospitals with 700 beds and 12 health centres, while the UAE today provides advanced medical services to its citizens in more than 40 government hospitals, 132 health centres and 9 preventive medical centres.

The private medical sector also made significant growth, reaching 23 hospitals, 555 clinics, 220 specialised clinics, 213 dental clinics and more than 760 pharmacies. The number of beds in government hospitals increased to more than 4,107 beds in 2002, an average of 1.3 beds to every 1000 citizens. The World Health Organisation, WHO, awarded President H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan a golden medal on the organisation's 50th anniversary in appreciation of the UAE achievements in medical services.

The UAE made great efforts in providing social stability and securing the future for citizens through a number of work strategies aimed at achieving social justice, equality and providing social development, family care, and securing good life for orphans, the disabled, the poor and families of prisoners. This is carried out through social assistance, public utility societies and other venues.

The budget allocation for the social services sector reached Dh 1.8 billion which covers social security assistance and providing financial support to fishers, juvenile and handicap centres, youth sports programmes as well as subsidizing electricity and water sectors. Within this framework, President H.H. Sheikh Zayed issued the new Social Security Law in 2001 and the Law for Pensions and Social Security in 1999 while the General Authority for Pensions and Social Security was created in the same year. The social security assistance managed by the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs constitutes 80 per cent of the Ministry's budget.

The government embarked on a great scheme of housing projects in line with H.H. Sheikh Zayed's policy of providing comfortable housing to every citizen. "The housing programme should continue until every citizen owns a house that provides comfort to himself and his children and brings them a good income," Sheikh Zayed said. Hence the number of citizens who benefited from the housing loans and gratis provided by Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme totalled 7,071 since the beginning of 2000, receiving a total sum of Dh 3 billion, while the number of applications received by the Programme since last April 2003 reached 27,000.

The Programme plans to build housing units and distributing them to citizens through relevant authorities. The number of housing units built by the government rose from 66,500 in 1972 to 545,000 in 2003. Government schools rose from 74 only with 1,800 students in 1971 to 1,180 schools accommodating 700,000 students in 2003. There were no universities or any institution of higher learning at the establishment of the federation. Students were sent on scholarships to friendly countries.

The UAE University was built in 1977 at the instruction of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, while the Higher Colleges of Technology were established in 1988 and Zayed University in 1998, thus raising the number of public and private institutions of higher learning in the country to 40. Consequently the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research was established in 1990 to lay down strategies for higher institutions and scientific research and to ensure the standards and quality of higher education.

As part of its endeavours to meet the needs of the country's increasing population and economic and social development in water and electricity, the UAE exerted remarkable efforts in developing this sector, thus creating the Federal Water and Electricity Authority in 2001. The Authority oversees water and electricity stations in the Northern Emirates with a total budget of Dh 1.24 billion in the first year in addition to Dh 1.6 billion for development over the coming five years.

The country's total power output from the Federal Authority, the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority, the Dubai Water Authority and the Sharjah Water and Electricity Authority, reached Dh 37.5 billion kilowatts and about 160 million gallons of water.

The UAE also completed an advanced communications infrastructure of airports, ports, roads, bridges, subways and other projects. Today six airports in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Dubai, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah, accommodating more than 16 million passengers a year and receiving more than 100 companies that organise about 125,000 flights to all world destinations.

The UAE is also a member of 80 air and sea transport agreements with friendly countries. The UAE also boasts of having 15 state-of-the-art seaports with an annual turnover of 96 million tons of cargo. The UAE provides advanced telecommunications services through 23 satellite stations with ETISALAT, established in 1976, leading the way with an allocation of Dh 3.4 billion in 2000 for new development projects aimed at modernising new generation mobile phone networks.

The UAE is ranked first in the world in number of subscribers to mobile telephones, registering 2.4 million subscribers in early 2003, constituting 70 telephones for every 100 persons. The number of land telephone lines rose from 1.35 million in 2001 to 1.94 million in 2002, growing at an average of 32 lines for every 100 persons, while the UAE is linked to 256 countries by International Direct Dial services.

On the Internet the UAE ranks the 19th worldwide, exceeding may of the European countries, with total number of subscribers of 290,000, representing one million users, registering a growth of 30 per cent. The UAE satellite Telecommunications Company, Thuraya, has consolidated its position in the world market by signing more than 60 agreements of provision of services to subscribers in more than 40 countries. Thuraya's satellites cover 106 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, Indian Sub Continent and Central Asia with a population of 2.3 million, while its subscribers reached 110,000 in April 2003. (The Emirates News AGency, WAM)


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