Dubai: Following Saturday’s announcement that the theme for next year would be ‘2020: Towards the next 50’, Gulf News takes a look back at the achievements of the last 50 years since the formation of the union in 1971 up to its Golden Jubilee in 2021, before looking ahead to the plans for the next 50 up to 2071.
The Last 50 Years
Health – Life expectancy averaged at 59-years-old for men and 63-years-old for women in 1970 and now averages at 75-years-old for men and 80-years-old for women. The infant mortality rate has also dropped from 67 deaths per 1,000 live births in 1970 to around nine per 1,000 in 2019. From seven hospitals, one per emirate in 1970, there are now over 104, with 19.3 doctors, 40.9 nurses per 10,000 people.
Education – Five decades ago only 48 per cent of UAE adults were literate, today over 95 per cent are literate, with nearly equal rates for men and women. Educational attainment is also much higher, with mean years of schooling rising from three years in 1970 to over nine years in 2019. In total the UAE has 624 English-medium international schools, the second highest in the world, and the teacher per student ratio was listed as 24.52 in 2016.
Economy – The UAE’s Gross Domestic Product is now Dh1.57 trillion up from Dh11 billion in 1973, giving the UAE the world’s seventh highest GDP per capita (in purchasing power parity terms).
Population – There were 235,499 people in the UAE in 1971, now that figure stands at 9.8 million in 2019.
Infrastructure – Rapid modernisation is reflected in the country’s world-class infrastructure, but nowhere is this more tangible than in communications where the UAE is ranked first in fiber to the home penetration and 25th in terms of fastest internet speeds. It also has one of the highest mobile phone penetration rates in the world 99 per cent and is among the heaviest social media users in the region 99 per cent.
Environment - Carbon dioxide emissions per capita have declined from highs of 80 metric tons per capita in 1970 to 22.44 metric tons per capita last year.
Travel and tourism – Passenger rates have risen from 173,000 carried by registered carriers in 1975 to 95.31 million in 2017. Dubai overtook Heathrow’s mantle for the world’s busiest airport for international traffic in 2014 and has held the title ever since with over 89 million passengers last year.
Overall – In 1971 the UAE was ranked 62nd in the Human Development Index, which takes into account everything from life expectancy, means and years of schooling and income per capita. Now it is ranked 35th out of 189 countries listed.
The Next 50 Years
The UAE Centennial 2021 Project aims to make the UAE the best country in the world by 2071 based on the following four pillars:
Future-focused government: Creating the world’s best government with long-term vision and inspirational leadership that anticipates and prepares for the future. Other objectives include achieving happiness in society and spreading positive messages internally and to the world, developing mechanisms for monitoring long-term variables in various sectors.
Excellent education: With a focus on advanced science, technology, space science, engineering, innovation and health sciences. Other educational measures include teaching students mechanisms for discovering their individual talents early. On the institutional level, educational institutions are encouraged to be incubators of entrepreneurship and innovation and to be international research centres.
A diversified knowledge economy: The target of becoming one of the best economies in the world can be achieved by increasing productivity of the national economy, support of national companies, investment in scientific research and promising sectors, focus on innovation, entrepreneurship and advanced industries, development of a national strategy to shape the future of the UAE’s economy and industry. A knowledge economy can also be achieved by a generation of UAE inventors and scientists and supporting them in technical sciences.
A happy and cohesive society: Establishing a secure, tolerant, cohesive and ethical society that embraces happiness and a positive lifestyle and high quality of life. This pillar also focuses on developing programmes to prepare future generations to serve as the UAE’s goodwill ambassadors, as well as promoting women’s participation in all sectors, making the UAE one of the best places to live in the world.
Overall, the programme stresses: fortifying the country’s reputation, diversifying imports and exports by relying less on oil, investing in education that focuses on advanced technology, building Emirati values and ethics for future generations, raising productivity of the national economy and enhancing society’s cohesion.
Agenda 2030: There are also 17 Sustainable Development Goals from the UN that the UAE working towards as part of Agenda 2030. They are; no poverty, zero hunger, good health, quality education, gender equality, clean water sanitation, affordable clean energy, decent work and economic growth, innovation in industry and infrastructure, reduced inequality, sustainable cities, responsible consumption and production, climate action, marine and environmental preservation, justice and global partnership.
Mars 2117: After Hazzaa Al Mansoori became the first man in space in 2019, the UAE now aims to launch an unmanned mission to Mars in 2021 with the view to establishing the first human settlement on the red planet by 2117.