Khalfan Al Kaabi recalls how the landscape was transformed due the efforts of the late Shaikh Zayed. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

Abu Dhabi The UAE has seen tremendous changes in the past 40 years. The development of the nation can now be compared to that of industrialised nations. This is one aspect of the country's success story, said Khalfan Al Kaabi, Deputy Chairman of Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

Al Kaabi recalled: "Before the discovery and export of oil, the economy of the seven emirates depended mainly on agriculture, livestock, pearl diving, fishing and seafaring. Therefore, the period before the discovery of oil, reflected the country's limited natural resources, and resulted in a simple subsistence economy."

He said the desert-like semi-arid land was transformed in a few years and planted with palm trees brought by the late Shaikh Zayed from other countries.

Main pillar

"The second achievement was the citizens. Shaikh Zayed had given them due importance as a main pillar of the community," said Al Kaabi.

Al Kaabi said that before the discovery of oil in the 1950s, the economy depended on fishing and pearl diving, but that too declined after Japan started producing artificial pearls. However, the main economic revolution took place in 1962 with the first oil explorations in the country in Abu Dhabi.

"The global competitiveness report 2011/2012 issued by the World Economic Forum, ranked the UAE 27th globally for competitiveness. The report classified the UAE as an innovation-driven economy, which is the highest stage of economic development that a country can achieve," he pointed out.

"The UAE is the only Arab country to be classified in this category for three years consecutively along with other countries like Germany, Japan, Sweden, Australia, Canada, US, Switzerland, the UK and Singapore," added Al Kaabi.

The UAE is keeping up with the latest in technology by engaging different industries in its economic strategy. And this is clear when we see the economic strategy of "Abu Dhabi 2030", according to Al Ka'abi.

"The UAE economy depends on industries like agriculture, aviation, technology, transportation, infrastructure and others. The Abu Dhabi Industrial Zone is another sign that the country is gearing towards increasing its dependence on manufacturing and industries," he remarked.

Economic vision

"Nowadays, the main challenge is to achieve the economic vision of ‘Abu Dhabi 2030'. The vision aims at increasing Abu Dhabi's GDP from $136.4 billion in 2010 to $415.7 billion in 2030," said Al Kaabi.

He added that the UAE has a long-term economic plan.

The country has invested its oil revenues to boost infrastructure, education, health projects and improving the standard of living of Emiratis.

The government also succeeded in weathering the global recession by taking preventive measures. It is a credit to the leadership that there has not been any significant impact on the economy of the country.

Role of women

Women have always played a vital role in all stages of development of the country. Even before the discovery of oil, they played an important social role by helping raise children while their husbands were busy working for months at sea, said Al Kaabi.

"The role of women in the UAE society has gradually expanded since the discovery of oil. The late Shaikh Zayed acknowledged the importance of women's participation in the workforce. Her Highness Shaikha Fatima Bint Mubarak, Chairwoman of the General Women's Union, promotes training, education, and the advancement of the status of women.

"We have many women ministers such as Shaikha Lubna Al Qasimi [Minister of Foreign Trade], Mariam Al Roumi [Minister of Social Affairs], Reem Ebrahim Al Hashemi [Minister of State], and Dr Maitha Salem Al Shamsi [Minister of State].

"Also at the Federal National Council elections this year, we noted a marked increase in the percentage of women participating in the elections whether as voters or candidates. And one of them, Shaikha Ganem, succeeded in Umm Al Quwain. Therefore, women in the UAE are working alongside men to help building the society."