2007 Year in Review

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Abu Dhabi made major advances this year in terms of government policy, structure and economic initiatives. Changes in 2007 were focused on the government's continued effort to diversify and build a sustainable economy bolstered by foreign direct investment in multiple industries.



In the beginning of the year, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, revamped the board of directors of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA) and Abu Dhabi Investment Council and became the chairman of both organisations. ADIA, a sovereign wealth fund, made international headlines following a $7.5bn investment in Citigroup at the end of November. Other vehicles, such as the Mubadala Development Company, also made a number of notable investments in foreign businesses throughout the year.



The Abu Dhabi National Energy Company (Taqa) has expanded impressively since its founding in 2005, thanks to aggressive acquisitions during the past 12 months. Taqa's portfolio has grown to more than $16bn in assets through international acquisitions in countries such as Canada and Holland.



At home, the emirate saw new developments in energy. The Abu Dhabi National Oil Company explored options for sour gas production in the Shah gas fields to keep up with the growing need for natural gas. Four international energy companies are currently bidding for the project, which will produce an estimated 3bn cubic feet of gas per day.



Keeping up with the increased awareness of environmental concerns, Masdar, a government initiative dedicated to developing and promoting sustainable energy and clean technology, announced it would develop the world's first zero-waste, zero-carbon 'green' community within the emirate. Phase one of Masdar City is scheduled to be completed by 2010.



The tourism industry has been another active economic area. According to a study conducted by the Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, 1.37m people visited the capital last year, a 16% increase from 2006. This growth has been met with some challenges, however, particularly a shortage in hotel capacity. Currently, there are 10,000 hotel rooms in the emirate, a number expected to increase to 13,500 in 2008.



Consolidating on the sizeable jump in this sector, the Executive Council established a new government body, the Office of the Brand of Abu Dhabi, to develop a brand for the emirate in an effort to generate tourism and foreign direct investment. The government continued to position Abu Dhabi as a destination for luxury tourists and announced that the emirate would host the 2009 Formula 1 Grand Prix on a track currently under construction on Yas Island.



Another major tourism event this past year was the Middle East International Film Festival, which provided a platform for people looking to invest in media related projects. The first annual Film Financing Circle was launched during the event to foster growth and provide capital to the region's developing industry.



As part of an effort to welcome the rising number of visitors, the Abu Dhabi Airports Company has continued to expand and redevelop the Abu Dhabi International airport, which is slated to handle 20m passengers by 2010. A healthy increase in passenger traffic was indicative of the growing international buzz surrounding the emirate as the airport served more than 6m passengers between January and November 2007, a 30% increase compared to the same period in 2006.



Looking to sustain these gains into the future, the Plan Abu Dhabi 2030 was released in September, outlining controlled growth for the capital city and setting targets for hotel rooms, schools and office and retail space. The programme incorporated environmental regulations while considering the city's capacity for expansion. The Policy Agenda 2007-08, released in August, illustrated the government's policy statements on topics from planning and economy to legislative reform. This document was the first of its kind to be published in the region and the government anticipates releasing regular updated versions.

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