National Day Report – UAE celebrates 47 years of building, development

ABU DHABI, 26th November, 2018 – On 2nd December, the UAE marks its 47th National Day, through official and popular celebrations that reflect the significance of the anniversary of the establishment of the Union.

The celebration has gained special importance this year, as it will coincide with 2018 being the ‘Year of Zayed’, which was announced by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to mark 100 years since the birth of the country’s Founding Father, the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

This year, the UAE inaugurated ‘The Founder’s Memorial’, as a beacon of light for future generations, with the aim of introducing them to the legacy of the country’s founder and the creator of its civilisation and development, as well as to represent a historic connection between the eras and generations, which have witnessed the establishment of the Union. The Founder’s Memorial is a permanent national tribute dedicated to commemorating the life, legacy and values of the Founding Father of the UAE. A place to learn about Sheikh Zayed through art, nature, words, stories, and multimedia experiences, the Memorial offers visitors a range of personal encounters with the late Sheikh Zayed as a man and as a leader, enabling people to gain a deeper understanding of his vast influence on the UAE and the wider world.

In 2018, the UAE has been recognised as a model of overall development, due to its scientific, economic and social accomplishments, which are significant additions to the achievements accomplished during its five-decade journey, through which the wise leadership has continued to follow to ensure a better tomorrow for its people, as well as all Arab and Islamic nations.

The UAE’s intellectual, political, military and social influence has become widespread across the region, through its leading regional and international efforts to fight extremism and terrorism, and deal with the challenges facing the region according to a clear assessment of these challenges and its partnerships with influential Arab countries.

The UAE has continued to anticipate the future by launching the first Emirati-made satellite and occupying advanced positions in many international development indexes, as well as by issuing new legislation, in coordination between the government and the Federal National Council, FNC, leading to its many accomplishments and developments on various levels and in all sectors.

The country’s sound and unwavering political stances in the region, its role in consolidating Arab sovereignty, and its efforts to face the region’s challenges have contributed to the region’s success in overcoming many of its challenges.

The UAE’s foreign policy has witnessed active and tangible developments in the Arabian Gulf, Arab and international arenas, due to its active foreign policy in dealing with various international issues. These efforts have enhanced the country’s stature and strengthened its friendships across the globe.

The success of the UAE’s diplomacy and policy, which calls for openness to the world and the establishment of relations and strategic partnerships, is reflected by the international stature granted to the Emirati passport.

Below, the achievements of the state over the past year across a number of key sectors are explored.

Space:

In 2018, the UAE entered the age of space manufacturing after it succeeded in launching ‘KhalifaSat’, which was entirely developed and manufactured by Emirati engineers.

The number of satellites operated by the UAE has risen to nine multi-functional satellites, while the value of the UAE’s investments in the sector rose to over AED22 billion.

In 2018, the UAE strengthened its leadership in the space sector through a series of achievements that confirm that it is on the right track to reach Mars in 2117.

On 3rd September, 2018, the UAE announced the selection of the first two Emirati astronauts, Hazza Al Mansouri and Sultan Al Neyadi, and in October 2018 the UAE Space Agency concluded a historic agreement with the American space agency, NASA, to expand their cooperation in space exploration and manned space voyages.

Tolerance:

The UAE has maintained its international presence in the area of tolerance, and has continued its efforts to promote coexistence and combat extremism and hatred through an institutional system managed by the Ministry of Tolerance, along with many UAE-based intellectual and religious institutions.

The UAE also strengthened its position as an international centre of moderation and tolerance, through hosting a series of events, most notably the ‘World Tolerance Summit’, which was a culmination of the series of activities and events witnessed by the country during the National Tolerance Festival, held this year under the theme ‘On Zayed’s Approach’, from 9th to 16th November.

Legislation and Laws:

In 2018, the UAE continued developing its legislative structure and issued many decrees and federal laws, with the aim of improving the community’s security and safety, achieving economic and social stability for the country’s people, and establishing the principles of responsibility, transparency and efficiency among various government authorities.

One of the notable decrees issued in 2018 is Federal Law Decree No. 20 for 2018, which relates to countering money laundering crimes and combatting the funding of terrorism and illegal organisations, as well as Federal Law Decree No. 9 for 2018 regarding public debt.

Law Decree No. 19 for 2018 on foreign direct investment, FDI, is another important decree issued in 2018, while President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan issued Federal Law No. 5 for 2018 regarding the endowments ‘Waqf,’ as well as a federal law authorising the UAE Cabinet to grant temporary licences for testing of innovations that use future technology and its applications, such as artificial intelligence. The law provides a safe testing environment for legislation that will govern the use and applications of future technology. The study to develop new legislation will begin with the launch of the RegLab in January, which will be the largest laboratory to anticipate and develop future laws governing the use and application of technology. It is hoped that the lab will allow the UAE to become a regional and global leader for attracting innovation and advanced technology applications. These include self-driving vehicles and artificial intelligence in health.

Competitiveness:

The UAE has the most competitive economy in the Middle East and North Africa, according to a study from the World Bank Group and the World Economic Forum.

The Arab World Competitiveness Report 2018, published last August, ranked the UAE as the 17th most competitive amongst 137 countries.

The UAE’s competitiveness rating was supported by strong rankings in infrastructure, goods and market efficiency, labour market efficiency, financial market development, business sophistication and the country’s macroeconomic environment, among other factors. It has consolidated its leadership in the region as the main tech and innovation hub.

The UAE ranked first in 11 global competitiveness indices among six different competitive reports (2017- 2018), issued by the World Economic Forum (WEF) the World Bank Group (WBG), the European Institute of Business Administration (INSEAD) and the International Institute for Management Development (IMD).

These indices are part of the UAE Government’s objectives outlined in the ‘Project Number One’ initiative for 2017, and are in line with the Ministry of Finance’s commitment to enhance the country’s competitiveness levels globally.

The UAE ranked first in three indices in the Global Competitiveness Report 2017-2018, issued by WEF, including Efficiency of Government Spending Index, Annual Inflation Rate Index, and Absence of Effect of Taxation on Incentives to Invest. UAE also ranked first in Ease of Paying Taxes and Ease of Doing Business indices based on the 2017 report issued by WBG. In the Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report 2017 – issued by WEF, the country ranked first in Effect of Taxation on Incentives to Invest index, and Low tax rate (per cent profit) index.

The Global Innovation Index by INSEAD reported that the UAE ranked first in Ease of Paying Taxes, and the World Competitiveness Yearbook by IMD reported that the country came in first in the Collected Personal Income Tax (per cent) and Collected Indirect tax Revenues (per cent) and Consumption Tax Rate. Additionally, UAE ranked first in Extent and Effect of Taxation, according to the Global Talent Competitiveness Index by INSEAD.

The UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, also leads as the safest cities internationally for the second consecutive year, surpassing 300 cities, including Tokyo, Basel, Munich and Vienna, according to the website Numbeo.com, which contains user contributed data about cities and countries around the world.

Lawmaking:

The Federal National Council, FNC, is keeping pace with the country’s development, due to a political empowerment programme launched by President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan in 2005, which aims to enable the FNC to practice its constitutional competencies, increase its consultations and share decision-making with the country’s citizens.

The UAE also succeeded in becoming a model of parliamentary work, which is characterised by awareness and caring, as the process of gradually strengthening the FNC’s competencies became clear during the empowerment programme, which included the election of half the FNC’s members, strengthening the participation of women as members and voters, organising elections for the FNC’s membership, and increasing the number of electoral bodies.

Over four decades, the FNC, through practicing its constitutional competencies, helped to develop the country’s legislative system to include all sectors, as well as to consider recommendations while discussing various national issues.

In recognition of the UAE’s role in countering terrorism and extremism, Dr. Amal Abdullah Al Qubaisi, Speaker of the FNC, was elected President of the IPU High-Level Advisory Group on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism (HLAG), which has been established to serve as the global focal point for parliamentary activities related to counter-terrorism.

Emirati Passport:

The work accomplished by Emirati diplomacy, along with adopting a balanced and moderate foreign policy, strengthened the regional and international presence of the UAE, which succeeded in launching many initiatives to serve its citizens and other people from around the world.

The UAE passport jumped another spot to become the third most powerful passport in the world, according to Passport Index (Global Passport Power Rank 2018).

The success of Emirati diplomacy is highlighted by the stature of the Emirati passport, which rose to third place internationally, after agreements were signed with 163 countries to remove the requirements for pre-entry visas, according to the latest update in the Passport Index of the international financial consultations company, Arton Capital.

The UAE travel document now has a visa-free score of 163, of these, UAE passport holders can enter 113 countries visa-free, while 50 countries will welcome them with a visa on arrival.

“The United Arab Emirates’ positive diplomacy, focus and determination helped boost its passport power,” Passport Index said in its blog.

“More and more countries are placing an importance on the power of their passports, and how freely their citizens can travel across the globe,” said Armand Arton, President of Arton Capital, the inventors of Passport Index.

“The success of UAE’s initiative has become a testament to other nations, that any vision can manifest with the power of positive diplomacy,” added Arton.

Economy:

The national economy maintained its balanced growth in 2018, despite many economic and international challenges. The Central Bank of the UAE predicted that the country’s non-oil GDP would grow by 2.3 per cent in 2018.

With oil production and government spending set to rise, overall growth is projected to strengthen to 2.9 per cent this year and 3.7 per cent next year, according to International Monetary Fund, IMF.

Expenditures in the federal budget for the 2018 financial year reached AED53.369 billion, after additional budget provisions were issued under Federal Law Decree No. 6 for 2018.

Those sectors directly related to UAE citizens as social services saw the largest share of the 2018 budget, after being allocated over half of the budget, with a total sum of AED26.3 billion.

Culture & Education:

The UAE has prioritised all forms of culture and arts through establishing local cultural events, attracting and hosting international cultural activities, and launching ambitious cultural projects that have made the country an international destination for those seeking culture and knowledge tourism.

The 37th ‘Sharjah International Book Fair’, which was the country’s leading cultural event in 2018, succeeded in attracting a record number of 2.23 million visitors, and 1,874 book publishers from 77 countries participated at the fair.

Also, the 28th ‘Abu Dhabi International Book Fair’ attracted over 300,000 visitors, which included fans of reading, poetry, literature and culture from all age groups. The seven-day fair witnessed the participation of over 1,181 exhibitors from 63 countries.

This year’s ‘Month of Reading’, which falls on March of every year, saw over 1,700 reading initiatives and events, which were organised by over 66 federal and local authorities and national private sector organisations.

Events:

In 2018, the UAE hosted many international events and conferences, such as the ‘World Government Summit’, which was attended by over 4,000 participants from 140 countries, as well as the ‘Interfaith Alliance Forum’, the ‘Global Future Councils 2018’, the ‘Aqdar World Summit’, ‘Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week 2018’, the ‘World Tolerance Summit’, and other events that reflected the UAE’s role as an international centre for worldwide events and conferences.

Foreign Aid:

For the fifth consecutive year, the UAE has maintained its stature among the world’s major international donors of development aid, relative to its national income, with a percentage of 1.31 per cent, which approximately doubles the international percentage of 0.7 per cent that was specified by the United Nations as the global standard.

The UAE occupied first place internationally as the largest international donor of foreign aid in 2017, according to statistics announced by the Development Assistance Committee of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.

The UAE also occupies first place internationally as the largest donor country of urgent humanitarian aid to Yemen in 2018, which have directly benefitted the Yemeni people.

The value of aid to Yemen in 2018, up to 1st October, has reached AED4.56 billion (US$1.24 billion).

In late November, the Emirates Red Crescent, UAE’s humanitarian arm, and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief) announced a joint $500 million aid initiative to alleviate a food crisis in Yemen. The initiative, dubbed ‘Imdad’, will benefit 10-12 million Yemenis.

Development Projects:

The UAE has launched many projects that are valued in billions of dirhams since the start of the current year, which varied between residential projects and infrastructure development projects, which the UAE regards as the key pillar in building a strong, prosperous and sustainable economy.

All of the emirates in the country have witnessed the launch of major developmental projects, which improved the quality of services offered to the public and created thousands of jobs.

The Al Mafraq-Al Ghuwaifat International Road Project was one of the key strategic transport projects launched by Abu Dhabi at the start of the current year, which upgraded the 246-kilometre road at a cost of AED5.3 billion.

In July, Abu Dhabi witnessed the launch of Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi, which is the first covered amusement city in the world, through investments reaching $1 billion.

The first stage of the 89-kilometre Khor Fakkan Road, costing AED5.5 billion, is a vital development project launched by the Emirate of Sharjah this year, which will help improve the local transportation system and promote economic growth.