DUBAI // Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Monday detailed the leadership’s vision and plans for a future without oil.
Sheikh Mohammed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, said the nation’s unity and diversification of economy would ensure a sound future for generations to come.
He said investments in education, nuclear energy and the military would secure the UAE for a post-oil future in 50 years.
“There won’t be any rivers but what is well known is there won’t be any oil or gas,” Sheikh Mohammed said in his opening address to the Government Summit.
“This is something we are thinking about in our governments and we’re thinking about the future generations for the next 50 years.
“This is what our founding fathers fought for and something that our future generation will also suffer from, which is why it is very important to think about.”
He said the nation’s future and unity must involve every citizen.
“A distinguished government always aims at making sure that every citizen is a part of the national wealth,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“Building a nation is not limited to the government. It is the obligation of every resident.”
The founding President, Sheikh Zayed, knew the value of national unity and was committed to developing it, Sheikh Mohammed said.
“It is the strength of a nation. He has united the UAE and said our unity is our real wealth, to ensure our sustainability and continued progress in the face of international challenges.”
Development of human resources, education, health, innovation, a diversified economy and security have generated the UAE’s strong economy, he said.
This is “everything that would actually create a country that is leading and a pioneer worldwide”, Sheikh Mohammed said.
“We were lagging behind in education and we knew it. Education led us to raise several questions.
“At this current time, when we have a lot of wealth, we need to invest and put all our efforts and resources into education because maybe in 50 years, when we might have the last barrel of oil, the question is: when it is shipped abroad, will we be sad?
“If we are investing today in the right sectors, I can tell you we will celebrate at that moment.”
But Sheikh Mohammed said there were many challenges to planning education.
“Each one of us has followed a different education in different places but there must be a clear vision from the country’s leadership as to the learning outcome for the next 25 or more years,” he said.
“Oil and gas are truly our real source of income today so we need as of today to stress that learning outcomes should create human capital to help and serve us in the next 50 years and beyond.
“This is not just to plan for the next 12 years, but for 25 years and beyond.”
Oil makes up 39 per cent of the UAE’s gross domestic product, according to figures from Moody’s Investors Service.
Sheikh Mohammed said investments in nuclear energy would result in a reliable source of clean power.
“Hopefully, at the end of the programme, 25 per cent of the UAE’s power needs will be covered by clean, nuclear energy,” he said.
“It is a huge programme and we hope a new plant will be launched in 2017.”
Another arm to the diversified economy, Strata Manufacturing, which produces composite aircraft parts for Airbus and Boeing, shows the vital role Emirati women are playing in the country’s future.
Women make up 83 per cent of the workforce at Strata’s Al Ain plant.
“Women play a very important role,” Sheikh Mohammed said. “These examples, the diversity of our economy and its strength will allow us to face all the challenges of today’s world, especially with the decreasing oil prices.
“The oil sector today is in a crisis and it is true that there are fears, but sometimes we forget that, in 2008, oil prices were higher than what they are today and they declined to lower than today – but the ship kept going forward.”
He said the UAE was also focused on providing security to its citizens and residents.
“For many decades, we faced regional challenges,” Sheikh Mohammed said.
“For more than 70 years in the Middle East, we witnessed a lot of events and the UAE has constantly tried to send a positive message to the world that the Middle East has a lot to offer and we are here to stay.”
He talked of the many Emiratis who volunteered for military service when Kuwait was invaded in 1990.
“They said they had an obligation to fulfil, although some were in their sixties and some were children,” he said.
“We are definitely, in the region, going through a very difficult time but we have God’s guidance and the determination of our men and women.”
Sheikh Mohammed then read out the names of Emiratis who insisted on serving nine months in military service, despite being exempt on medical grounds.
“Our community and society is unified. With this fabric of sons and daughters, the positivity that exists inside of us and dedication, our future in this country will always be forward and successful.”
Emiratis who volunteered for the military
These patriotic Emiratis were named by Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed as having voluntarily entered a nine-month national military service despite being medically unfit or the only son in the family