(MENAFN - Emirates News Agency (WAM))
ABU DHABI, 1st December, 2018 (WAM) -- His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, has said that the UAE National Day gains special momentum in 2018, as it coincides with the 100th birth anniversary of the Founding Father.
"But for Sheikh Zayed, our Union would not have seen the light; nor would our nation have been able to survive the challenges that beset his drive to establish the Union," H.H. Sheikh Mohammed said in a statement to 'Nation Shield' magazine on the occasion of the 47th National Day.
"While looking into where we have reached, I feel satisfied with what has been achieved on the ground. I thank Allah Almighty for empowering us to secure quantum leaps that fulfill the expectations of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In 2018, the UAE has continued to make impressive strides across key indicators of international competitiveness, primarily in terms of comprehensive and human development. "
Shedding light on some of the significant milestones accomplished over the recent period, Sheikh Mohammed continued to say, "Among other achievements as well are our state departments' rapid and efficient transition to smart government and governance of smart mobility; allowing 100 percent foreign ownership of companies in the UAE; and granting investors and talents up to 10-year residency visas for specialists in medical, scientific, research and technical fields, as well as for all scientists and innovators to add value to the UAE'S economy by attracting people of advanced skills.
"Over the last year we boosted the expansion and diversification of our economy. The contribution of oil & gas activities to the GDP declined to 22.3 percent; and our 2017 GDP surged to AED1422.2 billion. For the fifth year in a row, the UAE has continued to top Arab countries in terms of Foreign direct investments, FDIs, drawing 36 percent of foreign investment inflows into the Arab world though foreign capital inflows across the world dropped by 22 percent.
"Last September we approved a budget of AED180bn over the next three years, including a substantial increase in 2019 spending. Next year's budget will be the biggest in the history of the Union, 59 percent of which would be allocated for education and community development. Citizens are our top priority. We have allotted the bulk of the budget to ensure their prosperity, health, education and security."
Highlighting the UAE's growing status globally, the Vice President said, "Last year, there was a significant increase in the number of countries welcoming UAE nationals without prior visa requirements, a new indication of the prestigious position held by our country globally."
The cabinet, at the directives of H.H. President of the UAE, approved the National Policy for Senior Emiratis to ensure elderly Emiratis remain active members of society and have access to the services they need, Sheikh Mohammed added. The policy is built upon seven main components: healthcare, community involvement and active life, effective civic participation, infrastructure and transportation, financial stability, safety and security and quality of life.
Another important achievement was the establishment of the Emirati-Saudi Coordination Council as a framework for securing more integration and partnerships between the two countries on issues of vital importance, such as entrepreneurship, tourism and national heritage, the logistics and infrastructure sectors, he noted.
Shifting to the country's landmark space achievements, Sheikh Mohammed said, "Our achievements are too many to count here but they absolutely speak for themselves across all fields. However I will stop at our most recent achievement - the success of our national cadres in building the KhalifaSat which successfully lifted off into space. I spotlight this significant milestone as it is, in no uncertain way, an exceptional accomplishment abounding in special indications for us. It is a new affirmation of the merit of our vision, the efficiency of our plans, and the successful implementation of our projects. It is a testament to our country's efficient science, technology and innovation policy. With diligent work, an in-depth scientific approach, perseverance and team spirit, we have been able to make what many considered bordering on impossibility.
"With the launch of KhalifaSat, the country has ushered in a new era within its ambitious journey to deliver the future. Our determined effort to become one of the leading countries in the space industry is yielding results. The future of our beloved country as a hub for innovation lies in the hands of its energetic youth who never settle for anything less than perfect.
"On that day, UAE started a new leaf to scale fresh heights and make great strides in the space sector. We have agreed to build national competencies who can continue this path of glory and promote our international position in the space sector in line with our national interests and the scientific objectives humanity seeks to achieve in this area.
"The KhalifaSat team has made this achievement, laid the foundation stone, and paved the way for other Emirati engineers to continue this track record of achievements. We are positive that they will spearhead the country's developmental march in the space sector to unprecedented international levels.
"We've realised early enough that those who won't manage to carve a niche in the space would have no place on earth along with developed nations and peoples. Thus, we have incorporated space science into a constant focus of our strategies, and have developed plans and programmes to ensure that our country ushers into the space age. When we set up our space center 12 years ago, the participation of our national cadres in our first project, DubaiSat-1, stood at the limits of learning and acquiring knowledge. At DubaiSat-2, Emiratis' contribution to our construction has reached 70 percent. Then came KhalifaSat, which we launched last October, and built entirely with the minds and hands of UAE scientists and engineers.
"Today, the United Arab Emirates Space Agency, UAESA, represents a full-fledged national space sector across the country, with the UAE astronaut programme will witness a milestone in April, 2019, when the first Emirati astronaut is due to blast into space, making the UAE one of only a handful of states in the Middle East to have sent a person into space, as it looks to make good on a pledge to become a global leader in space exploration.
"Yahsat as well is continuing to connect communities across the globe, supporting the UAE in space with a third satellite. The UAE's involvement in space reached another milestone with the launch of the nano-satellite, MYSAT-1 which was built by Khalifa University students at the Yahsat Space Lab and went on board a Cygnus rocket two weeks ago after a successful launch in Virginia. In the meantime, our students are working on the development of the satellite "Mizn Sat", which is set to be placed on its orbit by the end of this year to study the Earth's atmosphere and collect data on levels greenhouse gases emissions in the UAE, therefore providing important information on climate change and contributing to the necessary preventive measures."
Continuing to highlight the country's space accomplishments, Sheikh Mohammed said, "The UAE has also recently become the first Arab country to announce its embark on space exploration. The UAE's unmanned probe, named "Hope" to Mars will study the planet's atmosphere. The probe will be designed and built by Emirati engineers. Coinciding with UAE's 50th anniversary, Hope will enter Mars orbit by 2021.
"While our space industries offer a vivid example of the success of our Emiratisation efforts, it is not the only model. Other successful examples manifest themselves in the fields of atomic energy, clean energies, applications of Artificial Intelligence, industries in general, and defence and aviation industries in particular.
"As we have successfully built a world-class infrastructure and a digital architecture that complies with best global practices, we are determined and able to complete the UAE's scientific infrastructure."
Shifting to the geopolitical scene, Sheikh Mohammed said, "We have a direct interest in and obligation for establishing peace and security in our region, extinguishing the hotbeds of tension, obliterating sources of extremism and restoring the sublime values of our religion and quintessential moderate culture, rejecting violence, extremism, militancy, inertia and isolationism, and promoting justice and equity, supporting the oppressed and relieving the needy. Within the framework of these supreme interests, we move and act, realising the interdependence of security and stability of our GCC states and the Arab world, and the oneness of our destiny.
"Our Arab world has paid a heavy price for disregarding these obligations. The price is not limited to the apparent destruction, and disintegration seen in some Arab nations, and the killing and displacement of some Arab societies; but it rather extends to the future of these nations, and the foreign meddling into their internal affairs, as well as the complexities facing efforts being made to build a comprehensive Arab discourse to meet current and future challenges.
"We in the UAE are not abandoning our commitments and we are working with our brothers to stop further deterioration; to establish solid foundations of a new positive reality in the Arab world; and to give hope to tens of millions of young people that their reality is improving and that their future abounds in opportunities.
"Two years ago, I spoke about the possibility of resuming the Arab civilisation as other nations did and resumed their own civilisations after a break. I said that we have natural resources, but we lack the will and the right model of management at the level of governments, economy and people. I understand that the situation in a number of our Arab nations is not that good and that the mechanisms of joint Arab action are almost inoperable. I know that the image of the Arab world has become darker after the disasters generated by the 'Arab Autumn' in a number of Arab countries.
"However, I still see light at the end of the tunnel. In the Arab world, there is a growing awareness of the requirements to promote civil peace, to approach development and progress, and to build a strong state that is fortified with national unity, law, justice, transparency and equal opportunities. I have a deep conviction that the achievements made by the UAE and by other Arab states can be copied and even outnumbered in a few years in all Arab countries. Today, our world is undergoing a significant transition that may take twenty or thirty years or more or less. These years are enough for those who have the will and the right management to improve. This is an opportunity for us in the Arab world, and we must seize it and join other states, like China, Japan and India."
Doubling on the importance and necessity of improving performance to preserve the country's national gains and scale further heights over the coming years, Sheikh Mohammed said, "I take the opportunity of the 47th National Day, to remind myself and remind you that the Golden Jubilee of the Union is only three years ahead from now. Three years during which we must complete the objectives of the National Agenda 2021. We all need to redouble our efforts and accelerate the completion of our projects. The themes of the agenda are not rigid or static, but rather moving and evolving in a multi-faceted, fast-paced world."
Concluding the Vice President praised Allah Almighty for His countless blessings, supplicating to Him to preserve our gains and grant the nation continued success and prosperity.
WAM/MOHD AAMIR/Rasha Abubaker