SEOUL // Abu Dhabi’s ambitious Economic Vision 2030 has been held up as a pioneering example of planning that should be a bedrock for development in the Arab and Asian world.
Its scale, and the way it is expected to change the urban setting and use of infrastructure and the environment, was roundly praised at the 10th annual Korea-Middle East Cooperation Forum on Wednesday.
Kim Jong-young, a former Korean ambassador to Saudi Arabia, described Vision 2030 as “a design force to be reckoned with”.
“The development of the UAE will transform it into a state-of-the-art nation,” Mr Kim said.
Prof Sherif Heikal, from Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul, was also full of praise.
“I am very proud to find a policymaker in the Middle East who has such a comprehensive vision for the future generation,” Prof Heikal said. “I would like to see this vision generalised for other Middle Eastern countries.”
Vision 2030 is Abu Dhabi’s plan to diversify its economy away from sole reliance on hydrocarbons.
Its projects include Khalifa Industrial Zone Abu Dhabi (Kizad), Abu Dhabi Airport Business Park, Al Maryah Island, Paris-Sorbonne University on Reem Island, Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District, Yas Island, the newly opened Dh44 billion Khalifa Port and the multibillion-dollar national Etihad Rail programme.
Mohammed Al Khadar, executive director at the capital’s Urban Planning Council (UPC), was invited to speak on the masterplan at the gathering in Seoul.
At a panel session on New Frontiers of Economic Co-operation, Mr Al Khadar said Vision 2030 was a “courageous plan” inspired by the late President Sheikh Zayed.
“The vision is to create a confident, secure society and to develop a sustainable, global and competitive economy,” he said.
Mr Al Khadar said the Abu Dhabi infrastructure and urban planning model was one from which South Korea and Middle East countries could benefit.
“We are so proud to say we are role models,” he said. “Planning is everything. You base everything on indicators and it all comes back to urban planning, to build up regions, to secure growth.”
The UPC has split Vision 2030 into four key masterplans, for Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Al Gharbia and the maritime industry.
“These are the heavyweight projects the UPC are so proud of in terms of the community return,” Mr Al Khadar said.
Last year the UPC and the South Korean ministry of land, transport and maritime affairs signed an agreement to share experiences in urban planning strategies, methods and best practices.
Mr Al Khadar said the relationship between the two nations was complementary, with both sides benefiting.
“Abu Dhabi has very ambitious plans with Vision 2030,” said Aidha Al Breiki, head of international relations at the Department of Economic Development.
“Most of these projects are productive and the vision itself is to move away from depending on oil, and we hope by 2030 that 65 per cent of the economy will be non-oil.”
In June, the Statistics Centre Abu Dhabi said non-oil business and industry contributed almost 10 per cent to the economy last year.
Mr Al Breiki highlighted the growing economic partnership between Korea and the Middle East.
“The relationship between the Arab world and Korea has increased tremendously over the years in terms of energy, petroleum, technology and now medical services,” he said.
Trade between South Korea and the GCC had almost doubled over the past two years, from US$61.5 billion (Dh225.8bn) to $112bn.
The forum, at the Millennium Seoul Hilton on Wednesday, was co-hosted by the Jeju Peace Institute, the Korea-Arab Society and the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research.
It was sponsored by Korea’s ministry of foreign affairs and trade.