Sheikh Hazza said that, over time, the emirate aimed to build a sustainable, free-market economy in which both the public and private sector would compete on an equal footing. He added that given the challenging, global economic climate, the government had decided to carry out an extensive review of Abu Dhabi’s capital projects to ensure the emirate’s resources were being optimised.
The interview below with Sheikh Hazza appears in The Report: Abu Dhabi 2013, the latest edition of the annual economic guide to investing in the Emirate. It will be published in February by the global research and consultancy company Oxford Business Group.
How has economic policy been changed as a result of the global financial crisis? Have the targets of Economic Vision 2030 been revised? Sheikh Hazza: Since 2008 the global economy has been under severe pressure, and this has been compounded by unsettled geopolitical events across the Middle East. The banking crisis has evolved into a sovereign debt crisis which caused widespread damage to the global financial system. Political actors and government leaders across the world are now facing serious challenges.
It was within this context that the Abu Dhabi Government decided to carry out an extensive review of its capital projects, with the aim of optimising our resources while effectively addressing the strategic issues that emerged as a result of changes in the global economy. In this regard, our re-prioritisation of projects was a success. Our long-term strategy, as articulated in the Abu Dhabi Vision 2030, remains unchanged, yet it was clear that our short-term priorities needed to be altered to accommodate the changing realities on the ground.
Our economic priorities are therefore targeted towards building a long-term sustainable economy. This is to be done through ensuring a balanced social and regional economic development approach that brings benefits to Emirati citizens and residents of the UAE in general.
Such an approach reflects the vision of HH Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, and the follow-up of HH General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, while focusing on economic diversification and non-oil dependent economic growth.
To implement this strategy more effectively, we are now in the final stages of developing our second five-year plan for the emirate, in which we will be dealing with short-term priorities and pursuing the long-term policy agenda linked to Economic Vision 2030. The initial plan was the 2008- 2012 five-year economic development strategy plan.
In what ways will the development projects announced in January 2012 help boost the overall infrastructure and industrialisation process? Sheikh Hazza: The overall infrastructure and industrialisation process is driven by our economic diversification strategy. This is currently evolving in eight different areas: cultural tourism, aviation, manufacturing, media, health care, petrochemicals, financial services and renewable energy. These priorities are reflected in the list of projects announced by the Executive Council in January 2012. For example, the Abu Dhabi Louvre and the Abu Dhabi Guggenheim museums projects on Saadiyat Island will form the cornerstone of our strategy of diversifying cultural tourism.