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Development in the United Arab Emirates – Aired May 2008

The United Arab Emirates has long led the Arabian region in terms of focusing its economy away from the energy sector.

Almost everywhere within the UAE there is evidence of construction going on and with the liberalization of property rights for non-nationals, the emirates attracted a steep influx of foreign visitors and investors, supporting an already expanding industry.

How have the rest of the emirates fared so far?

And in which sectors are the developments most promising?

Join Asia Business Channel as we explore this trend-setting country, and take a closer look at its development plans.

The United Arab Emirates… just 50 years ago… a poor desert nation dependent on fishing and pearl diving. The excellent road infrastructure and impressive superstructures were not here, and the country could only be crossed by camel or Land Rover.

The discovery of oil in 1958 was the catalyst for change, creating decades of prosperity.

Today, the U.A.E boasts a highly industrialised economy that makes the country one of the most developed in the world.

Lying at the heart of the Arabian Gulf, the U.A.E. shares land borders with Saudi Arabia and Oman. It is a federation of seven neighbouring emirates : Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Ajman, Sharjah, Umm al-Qaiwan, Ras al-Khaimah, and Fujairah.

The leadership of the United Arab Emirates is both hereditary and federal. The presidency and premiership follows the hereditary line of the Al Nahyan clan in Abu Dhabi, and the Al Maktoum clan in Dubai.

The country’s success would not have been possible without the vision of the late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who was the driving force behind the creation of the UAE. Pouring oil revenues into better infrastructure, health services, and education, he improved the lives of his people.

While oil remains a key mainstay of the economy, many new industries from banking and finance to tourism are rapidly gaining in importance. Diversification is the buzzword for almost every aspect of its economy.

The country has one of the most diverse populations in the Middle East. Since the mid-1980s, people from all across South Asia have settled in the UAE, in fact, an estimated 85% of the population is comprised of non-citizens, one of the world’s highest percentages of foreign-born in any nation.

The UAE is also a destination for the discerning traveller, and offers year-round sunshine and superb facilities for leisure and recreation. It easily marries old world charm, with cosmopolitan sophistication in a clean and safe environment.

Steeped in the ancient culture and heritage of Arabia the strong tradition of desert hospitality lives on in the genuine warmth and friendliness that welcomes the visitor.

Previously, non-GCC expatriates living in the UAE were only permitted to rent property, or to own property for a 99-year lease. In 2002, being the first emirate to do so, the Dubai government permitted the ownership of freehold property to all expatriates, and this has changed the real estate industry significantly. This led to a major property boom in 2002, as well as the announcement of the first of the man-made Palm islands.

Once Dubai began its offering of freehold properties to foreigners, the other emirates were quick to follow in this emirate’s footsteps.

Today, Dubai is one big construction site. To say that the city is experiencing a real-estate boom would be an understatement. Several megastructures are currently under construction and with almost each sunrise, there appears a new one on the horizon.

One of the key projects that is much talked about in Abu Dhabi is the The Urban Structure Framework Plan, also known as “Plan Abu Dhabi 2030”, It presents a coherent picture for the sustainable future of the city.

Targeted to the year 2030 and an expected population of over 3 million people, the plan is conceived so that it can continue to grow in a compatible way to 5 million people or even more.

The transportation and logistics sector in the United Arab Emirates is one that has made the world sit up and take notice. While the rest of the world is expected to have a rough landing, the Middle East aviation industry is predicted to enjoy a profitable 2008.

Emirates Airlines made history last year by placing the world’s largest-ever aircraft order during the Dubai Air Show.

Dubai already has the region’s largest aviation hub, but the emirate’s government is still keen to revamp the civil aviation sector. As part of the strategy to develop the emirate’s airports as a separate commercial business, the former managing director of BAA’s London Gatwick Airport has also been appointed as the company’s first Chief Executive Officer.

The government has gone on to create Dubai City of Aviation, an umbrella organisation incorporating all aviation-related assets of Dubai. Created to further develop Dubai’s aviation sector, it ensures the implementation of world-class operating standards, streamlined management, and promotes transparency and efficiency in decision-making.

Renamed for the third time, Al Maktoum International Airport, is to be built at a cost of about US$8 billion. Planned as the world’s largest airport with a capacity to handle 120 million passengers, the project is designed to serve Dubai’s passenger and cargo air transportation needs until 2050 and beyond.

The United Arab Emirates is a rapidly diversifying society that has successfully integrated its core values and heritage into its ambitious economic agenda.

While the 7 emirates continue to develop at different paces, it is clear that the next few years will see numerous development projects in the country.

Economic prosperity, coupled with a liberal business and social environment, will see people from nearly every country in the world continue to come here to live, work and play.