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UAE to highlight country's gains at global summit

posted on 24/08/2002: 1570 views

Although it is classified a developing nation by international organisations, the UAE believes its achievements in development places it far ahead of that category. The UAE officials participating in next week's global development summit in Johannesburg will tell the world that figures speak for themselves and what has taken place in the UAE in just a few decades is tantamount to a miracle, according to a story in today's issue of the "Gulf News”.

On several occasions, the UAE has acknowledged that the oil wealth was instrumental in making such accomplishments a reality but has stressed that money could be worthless if it is not used wisely. That is why the UAE people and other countries and organisations credit such accomplishments to President His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. In an age of vital statistical data and pragmatism, the UAE report to the Johannesburg summit on sustainable development, opening on Monday, will steer away from composition and emotional phrases and stick to facts and figures showing what happened during the country's 31-year life was a tremendous transformation in all aspects.

"The report includes comprehensive data on the development pro-cess in the UAE. What we are going to provide is a glorious record," said an official from the Federal Environment Agency, which is taking part in the conference. Key world bodies have already testified that a massive development drive, spearheaded by Sheikh Zayed since the establishment of the UAE in 1971, has largely paid off. According to the United Nations, the UAE has moved from medium to a high category in its human development index.

In another classification by a prestigious U.S. rating agency, the UAE came on top of the Arab countries in terms of domestic political stability, stable economic and social conditions, the absence of internal disputes and corruption, the enforcement of law, the role of religion in politics and credibility in development policies. In education, high investment in schools and adult literacy centres has resulted in a sharp decline in illiteracy over the past 20 years. The UAE officials have set a target to eradicate illiteracy by 2010 through adult education campaigns.

The health sector was equally important, with the UAE emerging as the second biggest spender on health services in the Arab world after Saudi Arabia. Figures by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development showed the UAE has pumped an average US$816 million a year over the past decade at a per capita rate of around US$262. Such large expenditure in the health sector has naturally resulted in substantial achievements in terms of life expectancy and mortality rates.

A report by the UNDP showed the UAE was the only Arab country to have scored well in both health services fairness and responsiveness. It showed the UAE, Kuwait and Qatar ranked 26 and 30 among the 191 countries investigated for responsiveness while the UAE, Libya and Djibouti topped Arab nations in fairness. "The only Arab country in the sample that scored well in both responsiveness and fairness is the UAE," the UNDP said in its 2002 Arab Human Development Report. Besides domestic development, the UAE has effectively contributed to development efforts in other countries through financial aid.

In some years, such assistance accounted for 20 per cent of the gross domestic product to turn the UAE into one of the biggest aid donors in the world. Oil was discovered in the UAE in late 1958 and began gushing out to global markets in the early 1960s. But revenues began virtually flowing into development after Sheikh Zayed took over. Production has now climbed to over two million barrels per day to make the UAE one of the biggest oil producers. Official estimates showed the UAE has pumped more than Dh150 billion in public investment in development and infrastructure projects to become one of the most modern states.

Despite a rapid growth in the population, exceeding four per cent in some years, the UAE's per capita income has steadily climbed since the creation of the federation. In 2001, it peaked at around US$21,000, one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. Environment was another field where substantial achievements have been made. They include laws on protection of the land and marine environment, better waste disposal, ban on hunting, and programmes to revive the wildlife. Sheikh Zayed, known for his love of farming and nature, has won several international awards for his environmental achievements.

At a conference on the universe and mankind in Abu Dhabi early this month, Sheikh Zayed spelt out his concern about nature in meaningful and expressive remark. Quoted in a paper by the Zayed Centre for Coordination and Follow-up, which organised the conference, Sheikh Zayed said that man and nature are inter-dependent and development of either of them benefits both. "His Highness the President has always stressed the strong relationship between mankind and earth within the framework of mercy and fairness in dealing with the resources of nature. He strongly believes that such an approach must be turned into a concrete action that transcends the mere moral feeling to a practical commitment to do justice to earth that has been with man in good and bad times."

Sheikh Zayed also outlined his strong interest in human development by saying: "The best investment of money is to invest it in the creation of an educated generation. This country has been given a chance with the wealth bestowed upon it by God Almighty. We must race against time so that we do not miss this chance. Our moves towards education and knowledge must be quicker than our moves in any other field." (The Emirates News Agency, WAM)


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