Economic Update

Published 22 Jul 2010

The government of Abu Dhabi has set out its future vision for the emirate, a vision that foresees smaller government, reinforcing democracy and a greater role for the private sector in the country’s booming economy.

On August 1, the Abu Dhabi’s Executive Council released Policy Agenda 2007-08, an 83-page study covering 18 separate areas, the result of 12 months intensive study and consultation, that is to serve as a blueprint for state policy over the coming years and lay the foundations for the long-term future of the emirate.

As an introduction to the document, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, president of the United Arab Emirates and Abu Dhabi’s ruler, said the government had a vision of creating a confident and secure society and building a sustainable, open and globally competitive economy.

“To ensure the realisation of that vision, our government has prepared a policy agenda that reflects the vast array of integrated initiatives that are currently being implemented and that will be implemented in the future, to achieve sustainable development,” he said.

One of the key elements of the programme will be the diversification of the economy. However, the document stressed that this should not be simply interpreted as a move away from energy resources as a mainstay of the economy. Instead, it said Abu Dhabi’s fossil fuel wealth should be harnessed to feed a diversified industrial sector and downstream activity.

Tourism will also be boosted, with the aim of attracting more than 3m overseas visitors annually and earning $7bn by 2015. However, the document emphasised that Abu Dhabi must offer something different for international visitors, rather than just more of the same to be found elsewhere in the region. This included promoting and preserving the emirate’s heritage as an attraction as well as its appeal as a “sun and sand” destination.

The education system is to be tailored to the future needs of the emirate, including encouraging more women to enter the workforce and providing them with the educational tools to do so.

Under the plan of action, many of the government’s present non-core functions will be outsourced to the private sector. These include administrative tasks such as data collection, programme assessment, recruitment and training activities.

A study of the health needs of the emirate was also conducted setting out the requirements for the future, including new specialist hospitals and facilities and improving public health and safety.

The plan envisages an improvement in urban planning, with stricter regulations to be enacted, greater co-ordination between government agencies and the private sector and tighter measures to protect the environment. This is to go hand in hand with a planned approach to improving the emirate’s transport infrastructure, with land, sea and air links all to be boosted.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince and chairman of the Executive Council, said the agenda would provide an “unprecedented understanding” of the priorities and plans of the government.

“For the private sector, the initiatives outlined in this agenda represent huge opportunities to operate in new sectors that were previously the traditional realm of the government,” he said.

The Crown Prince said the creation of a clear and publicly available government policy agenda would further strengthen Abu Dhabi’s ability to attract inward investment.

Another issue that was stressed under the plan is openness of government, with progress on meeting objectives to be reviewed quarterly and results to be made public. Mohammad Ahmad Al Bowardi, the secretary-general of the Executive Council, said that in the past, officials have been reluctant to speak to the press or make comments.

“This has changed,” he said. “From now on, the principle of accountability entails that the government opens up to the media, which will provide a barometer for progress.”