What are the main tenants of Plan Al Gharbia 2030?
MAZROUEI: Al Gharbia, the Western Region of Abu Dhabi, is a very large part of the UAE geographically, at 60,000 square kilometers. Its cities include Madinat Zayed, Mirfa, Liwa, Ghayathi, Sila, Ruwais and Dalma Island. Al Gharbia 2030 is a reflection of the wisdom of our leadership. It is in inclusive plan that incorporates planning, economics, industrial and social implications. We have tried to incorporate the real identity of the region. Even though we are developing all of the sectors, we have tried to keep the same identity that has been there for thousands of years. By doing this, we have won the hearts of the people living in the region. In the plan there are a few things we tried to keep at a minimum. We want to try to have a minimum impact on the social system and the ecosystem of the western region. We have made specific plans for each of the different cities.
With the cooperation with our strategic partners, we have tried to make Liwa the administrative center of the western region. Historically, Liwa was the first capital of Abu Dhabi; it is the old Abu Dhabi. The Yas family, the Al Falah family,and the Al Nahyan family moved from Liwa 200 years ago. We have tried to develop Al Mirfa as a coastal city with a lot of sea front and Al Ruwais as the industrial hub. There are a lot of projects happening in these different cities and it is our duty to make sure these projects are beneficial to everybody in Abu Dhabi as an emirate and the UAE as a country. Al Gharbia makes up about 60% of the emirate of Abu Dhabi. There are challenges within Al Gharbia, at 120,000 inhabitants, we only have 8% of the population of Abu Dhabi. The main challenges are the distances of the cities. At the moment, Al Gharbia’s contribution to the oil and gas sector accounts for about 50% of Abu Dhabi’s GDP. Our projections, for both GDP and population, indicate rapid growth. We see this coming from expansion of oil and gas projects and mega projects. We think the population will grow to 500,000 by 2030. This growth will first come from the experts building these projects. At the same time, we are trying to develop some new cities and we want to attract the best of the best people to help us implement this.
Which industries present the best investment opportunities in the Western Region? What areas have been identified for investment?
MAZROUEI: We have identified 5 sectors for investment in Al Gharbia. We see opportunities in petrochemicals, energy, tourism, food, and other industry. We want to build something that does not conflict with Abu Dhabi’s standards. The mega projects that are underway in Al Gharbia will not only benefit the western region, but all of the UAE. The nuclear reactor in the heart of Al Gharbia will be the first in the Middle East. Our leadership is very proud of the status and progress that is taking place in this regard. The groundbreaking event was held in early 2011 and today the project is going full speed ahead. This will help bring jobs and new industries to the western region. It will also create opportunities for SMEs. One of the other projects we are very proud of is the Union Railway. The first phase will be from Liwa all the way to Al Ruwais. This will impact the heart of the western region.
How will the Union Railway project impact Al Gharbia?
MAZROUEI: The Union Railway is not only about Al Gharbia, but the whole of the UAE and all of the Gulf countries. This is a project that has been dreamt about for a long time. I think our leadership made the right decision to put this on the ground. The impact of this will be huge. We are talking about business opportunities and at the same time local employment factors. It will also help most of the infrastructure projects in that transporting goods from one part of the country to the other, with the least amount of expense and manpower, will be greatly enabled. This will have a huge impact on the region be it on the initial phase of building the project, or at a later stage in operating the project.
In what ways can investment further enhance the oil and gas sector?
MAZROUEI: The oil and gas sector is tightly controlled by the government because it is the main driver of our economy. There has been a huge jump in non-oil GDP, but at the same time, oil remains a huge part of our GDP today. There is opportunity in the support services. We need companies to come and build new factories and refineries and industrial centers as well as upgrade the existing facilities. We also need companies that can make all of the processes and procedures more efficient and more environmentally friendly. There are huge expansions and new projects in Al Ruwais and we see a lot of opportunity for companies in this regard. Investors and the private sector will have huge opportunities in Al Ruwais very soon.
What level of support is Al Gharbia receiving from the federal government? Where do we stand with regard to infrastructure development?
MAZROUEI: Most of the support we receive comes directly from the Ruler and President, and the Crown Prince. The social support that we get from them is huge. Everybody in Al Gharbia appreciates this support and the fact that the leadership is present. When it comes to the projects, they support and check all of them for compliance. Abu Dhabi 2030, Al Ain 2030, and Al Gharbia 2030 are the same plan. We use the same methodology to come up with these and we strictly adhere to Abu Dhabi 2030. Abu Dhabi 2030 itself is a translation of the leadership’s vision into Abu Dhabi and we make sure we fit into that. One of the things we identified early is that infrastructure should be improved very quickly. Some of these infrastructure projects are happening at the moment and some of them are on the drawing table. The highways that will connect Ghayathi,the most western point is in the tender phase and the internal roads are already happening as well. There are also new hospitals and schools being built. The plans have been approved and there are no delays. One of the things we are trying to do in Al Gharbia is to get it right the first time and so far, we have been able to do this.
We need companies to come and build new factories and refineries and industrial centers as well as upgrade the existing facilities. We also need companies that can make all of the processes and procedures more efficient and more environmentally friendly. There are huge expansions and new projects in Al Ruwais and we see a lot of opportunity for companies in this regard. Investors and the private sector will have huge opportunities in Al Ruwais very soon.
At present what touristic offerings are available in Al Gharbia? What do you envision for the future?
MAZROUEI: Al Gharbia is very unique for a couple of reasons. We are the only region that gets the desert, the traditional and Bedouin life, herding their own camels and doing their own handy-crafts, and the sea. We have the longest beaches in all of the UAE. There is about 350km of coastline. Some of these beaches have been assigned to mega projects already. There is a huge tourism industry that is about to open up. At the moment, our partners, TDIC (Tourism Development & Investment Company) and Abu Dhabi Tourism Authority, are doing a great job. We have some great investors lined up and ready to build hotels and resorts. The tourism part of it is coming along very nicely. The western region mixes modern life and being in a traditional environment.
Specifically, what healthcare and education projects are underway?
MAZROUEI: H.H. Sheikh Khalifa has made the order to put in two new hospitals in accordance with Al Gharbia 2030. When it comes to schools, there are a couple of projects that our strategic partners are doing. One of them is a full academic city that will be happening in Madinat Zayed. The schematics for this project look great. There will be 3 universities and a few technical colleges there. We are pushing this education part. Both the health and education sector are where we are highlighting the need for infrastructure improvement.