Falah Al Ahbabi, Chairman, Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities: Interview

Falah Al Ahbabi, Chairman, Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities (DPM)

Interview: Falah Al Ahbabi

In response to increasingly challenging market conditions, how is the DPM approaching the rationalisation of ongoing property development?

FALAH AL AHBABI: Economic growth, record tourism numbers and a level of government support keep the property sector’s medium- to long-term prospects very strong. The DPM regulates and facilitates strategic investment by diversifying investments, subjecting proposals to rigorous assessment and prioritising projects that are based on future market demands, such as phase deliveries that align with our Real Estate Market Forecast.

Our integrated development process allows us to look at a building’s life-cycle costs, from design to construction to operations, and adapt to evolving market conditions. Developers of significant master plans are banking on the regional and global market pull to support a more measured approach in order to minimize risk on capital expenditure.

The DPM has coordinated key stakeholders in formulating a strategy that has guided the sequencing and reviewing of development phases in a way that demonstrates the emirate’s resilience. As a regulator the DPM plays an important role in realising the growth objectives outlined in the Abu Dhabi Plan.

How are digital and smart technologies being used to ensure urban liveability, sustainable development and municipal efficiency?

AL AHBABI: From the very beginning of the DPM’s merger between the Urban Planning Council and the municipalities, digital tools have been effective in smoothing the integration and acceleration of municipal service deployment, from planning to development, alongside community and business support. Moreover, the emergence of these tools has created an opportunity to identify new needs and implement innovative and impactful ranges of services to meet those needs. Through its Digital Transformation Programme, and pursuant with the Co-living Focused Organisational strategy, the DPM has rolled out a number of initiatives that form the cornerstone of its efforts to streamline the delivery of smart service outcomes. For instance, a unified online platform simplifies service provision and replaces many of the portals used for various core capabilities, with the aim to provide users with a truly digital experience. It reduces the footfall of municipal offices and allows residents to access services from their homes. In addition, the recently released mobile application Abu Dhabi Smart provides information on the full portfolio of municipal e-services.

To what extent is decentralisation being facilitated to support the emirate’s future growth?

AL AHBABI: One of the DPM’s key priorities is to ensure that public services, proper infrastructure and opportunities for economic growth are widely distributed to ensure that the benefits of social change are available to residents across Abu Dhabi. Moreover, the co-living approach commits the DPM to helping to create sustainable communities throughout the whole emirate. The department acts on that commitment in accordance with the principles established in the Abu Dhabi Plan. First among those principles is an imperative to work closely with the municipalities, such as Al Ain City and Al Dhafra, and to constantly adjust projects to fit the communities’ evolving needs. Overall, we are putting in place sufficient and resilient infrastructure, as well as adequate community facilities, capable of supporting anticipated progress in identified growth sectors. More specifically, our objective is to redirect investment and expansion from congested business districts into areas with untapped capacities. On the whole the goal is to enact a development strategy in a consistent manner among the three regions, while tailoring the different plans to suit local demands.

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Falah Al Ahbabi

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The Report: Abu Dhabi 2019

Construction & Real Estate chapter from The Report: Abu Dhabi 2019

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