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  Middle East & Africa
UAE Celebrates 36th National Day in Seoul
Hundreds of High-Profile Guests Attend Reception
By Min Byung-Il
Senior Writer
Amb. Abdulla Al-Maainah of UAE (second from right) and Amb. Vitali V. Fen of Uzbekistan(far right), who is concurrently dean of foreign diplomatic corps in Korea look on when S. Korean Minister of Information and Communications Yoo Young-Hwan (left) exchanges greetings with one of guests during the 36th UAE National Day reception on Dec. 4, 2007.

A reception celebrating the National Day of the United Arab Emirates(UAE) was held at Hotel Shilla in downtown Seoul on Dec. 4, 2007. More than 400 well wishers joined the function.

The guests included senior Korean government officials, members of South Korea's National Assembly, heads of foreign diplomatic missions in Seoul, local and international businesspeople, UAE nationals living in Korea. From the South Korean government came Minister of Information and Communications Yoo Young-Hwan. Emirates Airline Seoul Area Manager Lee Sang-Jin also attended the function.

In his key note address, Amb. Abdulla Al-Maainah conveyed his congratulations and best wishes to President H.H. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Their Highnesses Members of the Supreme Council Rulers of the Emirates, as well as Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, on the happy occasion.

He said December 2 will always be a day of honor in the history of the UAE, adding that despite its short history, the UAE has taken giant strides in progress and has been transformed into modern developed state pointing out that Sheikh Zayed left behind an impressive legacy, a huge legacy that speaks of itself in various fields of human development.

UAE Amb. Abdulla Al-Maainah (right) receives guests in a National Day reception at Shilla Hotel in Seoul on Dec. 4, 2007. At center is UAE Minister Plenipotentiary Ibrahim Al Mansouri.

On bilateral relations between the UAE and Korea, UAE envoy noted that two-way trade between the two countries totaled $15.8 billion last year and in the area of investment, the UAE invests $1.93 billion in Korea, while Korean investors are very active in the UAE markets.

The UAE is ready to cooperate with Korea and promote its investments and encourage joint economic projects, in response to the policy direction and ambitions of our leaders aim at increasing the prospects of cooperation that serves the mutual benefits, he said.

He then thanked the government and the friendly people of Korea for their cooperation and genuine support, which, he said, enabled him to discharge his duties efficiently.

With major economic development projects achieved within a record time span of three decades, the country is now laying greater emphasis on empowerment of its people, a task which was clearly spelt out recently by the President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, according to the UAE envoy.

Sky is the limit to our aspirations. The next phase of national action will be to transform our visions into strategies and eventually into tangible achievements of which our people would be proud to defend, Sheikh Khalifa was quoted as having said recently by Emirates News Agency (WAM).

Sheikh Khalifa further said that current government's efforts to boost the competence and performance of the public sector were part of a grand strategy which, he said, does not contradict with parallel efforts to enhance the role of the private sector.


Amb. Abdulla Al-Maainah is all smiles while exchanging greetings with Seoul Times chairman Yun Ik-han.

Sheikh Khalifa stressed the role of the private sector, describing it as a partner in the development of the country. He stressed the need for accurate planning that takes demographic, environmental and security issues into account.

The President made it clear that he was against any investments that do not take environmental impacts into consideration.

"Although we remain committed to a free market economy, we will not allow any investments that would lead to environmental degradation or impinge on our security and national identity," WAM quoted Sheikh Khalifa as saying.

On the political reforms in the country, Sheikh Khalifa cited the first ever elections of the Federal National Council (FNC) as historic. These elections, he said, have set the country firmly on the path towards wider public involvement in the decision-making process.

Addressing the new members of the 40-seat house, Sheikh Khalifa urged the house to present new ideas to develop the policy-making process and improve the performance of executive and judicial branches of government.

UAE Amb. Abdulla Al-Maainah (second from left) poses with Chairman Yun Ik-Han of The Seoul Times, and other top foreign envoys in a reception on Dec. 4, 2007.

"These ideas would also reinforce security and justice, improve the level of transparency, accountability, and integrity, and promote the rights and freedoms. You are entrusted by the citizens to represent them and to reflect their aspirations and needs," he told the new members. Sheikh Khalifa went to describe the new legislative chapter as a culmination of the achievements made over the past 35 years, notably in maintaining the UAE federation and realizing national goals that were set by the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan and the founding fathers of the UAE.

Sheikh Khalifa told the house that he would soon announce new steps to enhance the role of the federal house as a legislative authority that supports and guides the executive and judicial branches.

"This will be done within the context of the supremacy of the law and the integration of roles and responsibilities among various institutions of the state," he said.

The President expressed his delight that a woman was among the six victorious candidates in the first elections. Dr Amal Al Qubaisi became the first woman to be elected to the council. Alongside Dr. Al Qubaisi, women were also represented by eight other women parliamentarians. The victory of a woman in FNC polls was widely hailed as a mark of their success in all fields. It also underscored the support extended to women by political leadership.

Government Strategy

The UAE Government unveiled its strategy for 2008-2010 on April 17th, in a major ceremony that was attended by President H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

Speaking shortly after the historic strategy was unveiled by H.H Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Khalifa welcomed the federal strategy, saying it marks a new beginning for the government sector performance in the UAE

He added: "This strategy epitomizes our ambitious vision to propel our country to new highs. As we seek to take our people to new horizons, we will continue to adhere to our indigenous values and principles upon which our nation was founded."

The declaration of this strategy at this point in time, said Khalifa, underscores our commitment to evolve a serious national action, which is aimed at cementing the UAE federation.

"This means we should augment inter-federal work so as preserve our achievements and make more gains in the years to come." the President said.

He added that the strategy has the welfare of UAE nationals at its core, ensuring high quality of life for them, and also ensuring sustainable development.

Sheikh Khalifa also expressed confidence in the ability of H.H Sheikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and his ministerial team to implement the strategy. Sheikh Khalifa concluded his remarks by calling upon UAE nationals cadres to lent support to the government as it implements the strategy.

For his part, Sheikh Mohammed who unveiled the strategy said the landmark blueprint for government performance was inspired by the Empowerment "Tamkeen" speech, delivered by President H.H Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan on the 34th anniversary of the UAE National Day.

In an extensive speech on the launch of the strategy, Sheikh Mohammed said: "This strategy has been inspired by the Empowerment "Tamkeen" speech, which gave us the roadmap to follow on the 34th anniversary of the Federation, the core message of which is to ensure sustainable development and a high standard of living for all UAE nationals."

Sheikh Mohammed said the UAE Government Strategy sets the foundations for a new era of public policy. He also paid tribute to the founding fathers of the UAE, saying their "high integrity in living up to the trust bestowed upon them, how they fulfilled their duties towards this land and its people, and how they left us with a clear conscience, self fulfilment and the love and appreciation of their people."

He added: "We followed their lead in building this country, guided by their ultimate devotion, absorbing their wisdom and generosity, and embracing their teachings and guidelines.

Our inspiration is their strong will, unfaltering steps, and determination to conquer challenges in order to make our vision and our people's hopes and aspirations come true. They have entrusted us with a strong legacy and we ask Allah to help us and bless us with a determination, clear vision, and loyal men to continue the work that they began," he said.

Broadly, the strategy covers six sectors, namely Social Development, Economic Development, Government Sector Development, Justice and Safety, Infrastructure and Rural Areas Development.

Economic Prosperity



UAE`s Gross Domestic Product is projected to rise to Dh 697 billion in 2007, according to the country's Investment Climate report for 2006, published by the Ministry of Finance & Industry.

The report, which was prepared by the ministry in collaboration with the Arab Investment Guarantee Corporation, provides indicators for macro economy, investment promotion activities, legislative and corporate developments, tourism sector and the new economy initiatives.

According to the report, the country's real GDP rose by 35 percent in 2006 to Dh 642 billion, compared with Dh 476.3 billion in 2005. It is projected to surge to Dh 697 billion in 2007.

Gross fixed capital formation grew by 10.7 percent in 2006 to Dh 121 billion, against Dh 93.8 billion in the previous year, while the surplus in current accounts of balance of payment reached Dh 130.4 billion up by Dh 60.2 billion from 2005.

UAE`s trade exchange with rest of the world witnessed a significant growth in 2006, registering Dh 937.3 billion, or 146 percent of the GDP. During that year, UAE signed bilateral investment cooperation agreements with 32 countries and agreements for prevention of double taxation with 44 countries.

The highest rate of flow of Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) came from European countries, followed by Asian countries, Russia, Australia, Arab countries, Americas and Africa. Revenues from tourism jumped to Dh 39.8 billion, against Dh 32.4 billion in 2005 as the number of tourists rose to 6 million. The number of hotels also increased to 306 from 290 in 2005.

Property Development Investment

UAE Ambassador to Seoul Abdulla Muhammad Al Maainah

The UAE is witnessing the fastest and unprecedented boom in the construction sector in the Middle East. These huge world class construction projects have wooed bulk foreign investments. The boom covered all the UAE emirates. Al Dar, Emaar, Sorouh, Nakheel, Dubai Property, Manazil, Al Qudra, Reem investment, Ta'meer, Dubai land and Sama Dubai are the leading UAE companies which are executing over 300 major and small projects.

The projects under construction in the UAE are estimated at DH 1.83 trillion equivalent to US$498 billion till March 2007 at growth of 83.4 percent compared to previous year in which the projects under construction were worth Dhs997 billion.

The amount earmarked by the UAE to develop 325 islands touches DH 454 billion in next 10 years, among them natural and man-made islands. The main developed islands are Saadiyat in Abu Dhabi, Lagoons project in Dubai, Al Nakheel project in Jebel Ali, Al Nakeel Deira, Umm Al Shaoum Island, Lulu Emarat, Al Kahraman islands project, Saraya islands, Mangrove islands, Al Marjan Island and Fujairah Island.

Water and Electricity

The UAE has commenced privatization of water and electricity, and wooed foreign investment to execute strategic projects in this sector in order to meet requirements of architectural, real estate, tourism, commercial and major industrial projects, which are being executed across the country.

These projects are also aimed at meeting the growing needs of population in urban areas and new residential areas as well.

Hence, The Ministries of Energy, and Environment and Water, as well as, The Federal Electricity and Water Authority (FEWA), Abu Dhabi Electricity and Water Authority (ADEWA), Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), Sharjah Electricity and Water Authority (SEWA) and Fujairah Water and Electricity Plant continue their plans to execute vital projects in the sectors of water and electricity.

The FEWA, an independent establishment, was set up 2001. It supervises and manages the water and electricity projects and premises in the northern emirates, where it raised the power production in 2006 to 1362 mega/watt, while water production capacity at the water desalination plants rose to 48.14 million gallon daily.

Since its inception in 1998, ADEWA attracted foreign investment about DH 40 billion in line with its privatization programme, while the DEWA earmarked DH 50 billion to execute its five-year plan from 2006-2010. SEWA earmarked about DH4.4 billion to execute the developmental plan till 2025.

The UAE has started to benefit from its natural resources through employing high tech to develop alternative and renewal energies to produce solar and wind power.

Tourism

The UAE has topped the list of Middle East and North Africa countries as it was ranked the 18th worldwide in regard to competitiveness in field of tourism and travel, according to annual report released by the World Economic Forum (DAVOS).

The survey, which covered 124 countries, revealed that the UAE was well ahead of some developed countries in the tourism sector.

In fact, the UAE enjoys good tourism infrastructure that woos tourists. In addition to political stability, security, strategic location that links the East and the West and stable weather through six months in a year. There are also modern airports, seaports, road network, communications and shopping malls.

The UAE enjoys 700Km long sand beaches and distinguished 450 hotels, archaeological sites, heritage centres, museums, golf courses, polo courses, popular sports like diving, hunting, world horse race, camel race, old dhows race, modern boats race, water surfing, sand surfing, aerobatic show and other tourism attraction activities.

In 2006, over 6.5 million tourists worldwide visited the UAE, while the World Travel and Tourism Council estimated that the tourism and travel sector will earn the UAE DH 125 billion in 2007.

Transport

The UAE has built advanced infrastructure in transport sector. It has also constructed extensive network of airports, international airports, international aviation companies, road network, bridges, tunnels and other projects, which leveled the UAE with advanced countries.
The railways system has been introduced for the first time in the UAE.

Work is underway to introduce metro in Dubai emirate at cost DH15 billion. Meanwhile, studies have been completed to construct railways project in emirate of Abu Dhabi, which will link all the UAE emirates.
The UAE has seven international airports: Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah and Al Ain. There are three international airports in Abu Dhabi emirate: Abu Dhabi International Airport, Al Ain International Airport and Al Bateen International Airport, which is allocated for VIP reception.

A number of passengers traveling via different UAE airports have reached 38 million during 2007, while a number of registered planes in UAE reached 240. The number of aviation companies, which operate via the UAE airports reached 275 companies.

The national carriers; Etihad Airline, Emirates Airline and Al Arabia have registered quality shift as their fleets increased destinations worldwide.
Etihad Airline flies to 45 destinations. It carried four million passengers in 2007. Emirates Airline flies to 93 destinations. It carried 17.5 million in 2007. Al Arabia flies to 35 destinations. It carried 1.76 million passengers in 2006.

The UAE has more than 26 seaports, of which 15 are main seaports. There are many free zones at these seaports. They offer facilitations and exemptions to woo foreign investment and spur investors to set commercial, industrial, and service enterprises, which support the national economy. The largest free zone is Jebel Ali, which hosts over 6000 industrial, investment, and commercial firms.

Environment

The UAE created in 2006 a special Ministry of Environment and Water due to its priorities on issues of environment and due to the UAE's keenness to develop regional and international cooperation in the environmental field.

It has scored distinguished achievements in preserving and protection of the environment, among others fighting desertification through forestation and agricultural land acclamation to preserve biological variety and setting up of protracted natural marine and land areas, combating pollution, protection of natural resources and preserving of endangered species through adherence to the CITES convention.

The UAE joined all the regional and international protocols and agreements related with the environment and sustainable development. It also entered into the regional and international partnership to push plans and environmental projects through launching the Zayed International Environment Award and the Abu Dhabi World Environment Data.
The UAE hosted the World Conference on sustainable energy resources in arid lands in Feb. 2007.

The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan issued 180 awards and appreciation certificates in recognition of Arab, regional and international efforts in protection of environment.

Development of Human Resources

The empowerment phase launched by H.H. President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan gives maximum emphasis to the role of citizens in achieving revitalization project.

The Federal Government Strategy stresses carrying out many human resources development programmes on rehabilitation and training of UAE nationals to take part positively in the coming period.
H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai said when he announced the Government Strategy that the citizen is the focus of policies and state projects.

Woman Awakening

The UAE woman has earned national gains by participating in the three sovereign authorities: executive, legislative, and judicial authorities. The women are represented by two ministers in the Cabinet and nine members at the National Federal Council, out of total 40 MPs.
They represent 22 percent of the FNC MPs. The women are also represented with two public prosecutors at the Judiciary Department in Abu Dhabi.

Due to the support of H.H. President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and follow up of Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak, Chairperson of the Supreme Women Foundation and Chairperson of the Woman Federation, the women represent 59 percent of the UAE national workforce, of which 30 percent are in the leading posts.

About 60 percent of the women workforce occupy technical jobs such as, medicine, teaching, pharmacology, nursing, police, Armed Forces, customs.

They also joined business sector. As a result the Businesswomen Council has been set up, with 10, 700 members investing worth DH 12.5 billion at the market.

Foreign Policy

The UAE extensively opened up to the world over the last two years. It struck political, economic, commercial, cultural, educational and health strategic partnerships with many countries worldwide. They earned the country a prestigious position in the international community.

Sheikh Khalifa reiterated while receiving 54 UAE ambassadors and representatives at the regional and international organization on Oct. 9, 2007 that "the foreign policy of the UAE is based on firm principles in line with its adherence to the United Nations charter, respect to the international agreements and establishing the relations with other countries based on mutual respect and non interference on other peoples' affairs.

He added that "our foreign policy advocates settling of conflicts through dialogue and amicable methods, supporting, and contributing to international stability and peace." Sheikh Khalifa underscored that the moderate course taken by the UAE, besides its social security, political stability, has earned it a prestigious position.

Openness Year 2007 was intensively characterized by mutual visits between the UAE and many countries worldwide.

Sheikh Khalifa visited in 2007 France, Syria, Algeria, and Kazakhstan. He led UAE delegation to the 27th conference of GCC countries. Meanwhile, H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai visited Sultanate Oman, Bahrain, Tunis, China, Portugal, Vietnam, India and Uzbekistan.

General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Abu Dhabi Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces also visited Saudi Arabia, Sultanate Oman, Qatar, France, Russia, US, Pakistan and Germany.

Joint GCC Work The UAE has been sustaining the joint GCC work since its inception in Abu Dhabi on May 25, 1981. It promoted the bilateral relations with the GCC countries through agreements and mutual visits.

It has followed peace approach and flexible diplomacy to terminate the occupation of three UAE Islands by Iran either through direct serious talks or referral to the International Court of Justice.

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Foreign Affairs decried at the UN's General Assembly meeting, failure of the international body to end the occupation of the three islands.

The Middle East Peace The UAE plays a pivotal role in efforts to bring about peace in the Middle East through its distinguished relations with the international community and its membership in the Arab quartet, which was set up at the 19th Arab summit in Riyadh.

Sheikh Abdullah expressed his disappointment at the UN on Sept. 28, 2007 about the situation in the Middle East, particularly in the Palestinian territories due to continuous Israeli occupation.

He added that the solution of Arab-Israel conflict would be settled unless Israel accepts the Arab Peace Initiative, which based of the UN's Security Council resolutions and the international legitimacy.

Anti-terrorism

The UAE has joined 14 international agreements related to the anti terrorism. It endorsed the last one on the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

The UAE has also endorsed the regulations and procedures allowing it to monitor and freeze suspicious banking financial transactions use in financing terrorist activities. Earlier, the UAE has issued anti terrorism crime law in 2004 and money laundering law in 2002 and set the Counter Terrorism National Committee.

Sheikh Abdullah said before the UN on Sept. 28, 2007, that the UAE cooperates with all efforts to combat all forms of terrorism, including money laundering.

International Cooperation

Since it joined the UN in December 1971, the UAE has been active in supporting the international body activities due to the fact that the UN charter, laws, and international norms represent human conscience and boost international relations to maintain international peace, security, and sustainable development.

The UAE enjoys cooperation agreements with 28 UN organisations, which run 80 consultative missions in the country at a number of federal ministries, local department public institutions.

It enjoys diplomatic relations at the level of ambassadors with 159 countries worldwide. The number of embassies rose to 53, including permanent missions in New York and Geneva and nine general consulates in a number of Asian and European countries.

The number of resident embassies to the UAE rose to 119, among 33 non resident embassies compared to three embassies only in 1971. They were British, US and Pakistani embassies.

The number of consulates in the country is 64 in Dubai, besides 12 offices for regional and international programmes, as well as, resident organizations.

The UAE established diplomatic ties in 2007 with North Korea, Salvador, Serbia, The Republic of Nauru, Congo Brazzaville, Cyprus, and Vatican.

Foreign Aid

The UAE has continuously worked to develop its foreign aid programme to support development and stability in the developing countries.

It called for the international community to adhere to effective international mechanism to ensure flow of assistance to the developing countries.

The UAE is keen to implement resolutions and programmes agreed by the leaders at the Millennium 2000. It has funded developmental projects in the Middle East and Africa in form of loans and grants worth US$70.

The loans and grants offered by the Abu Dhabi Fund for Development until 2006 were worth DH21.188 billion, of which 52 countries in the Arab, African and Asian countries benefited, as well as, other countries.

The Khalifa Foundation for Charity Works

It was established in July 2007. The foundation aims at sending aid to the needy and achieving social solidarity. It offered in July 2007 US$10 million to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) to help the Iraqi refugees in Syria.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai announced at the World Economic Forum (DAVOS), which was held at the Dead Sea in Jordan on May 19, 2005, establishment of the Mohammed bin Rashid Foundation. He allocated US$10 billion to fund the projects and programmes of the foundation.

'Dubai Cares' Campaign

Sheikh Mohammed launched the Dubai Cares campaign, a humanitarian initiative, on Sept. 19. 2007. It aims at the first phase to provide education to one million children in the poorest countries. The humanitarian initiative, which raised Dh1.7 billion, was hailed by the regional and international organisations.



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Mr. Min Byung-Il serves as editorial director and senior writer for The Seoul Times. He was former managing editor and executive director of the Korea Herald. Min is also serving as correspondent for Emirates News Agency (WAM) of the United Arab Emirates and web editor for ArabAfrica.Net.

 

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