As the world plays catch-up, the country has long realised human capital is its most valuable asset
The UAE sets a precedent in banking on health and education
They are the building blocks that are hard to quantify and difficult to put a value upon, but according to Jim Yong Kim, the president of the World Bank, health and education are key to national prosperity. Speaking in Abu Dhabi last week at the Reaching the Last Mile forum, he said that human capital was the most valuable asset a country could hope to have and that a healthy, well-educated population is the secret to improving economic prosperity and success on the global stage. For the first time this year, the World Bank will be measuring countries based on their health and education prospects, as well as gauging more conventional markers of progress such as infrastructure, assets and energy. "As low income jobs are eliminated, healthy, well-educated people are going to be the most important part of the wealth of nations," he told the forum.
The UAE is already several steps ahead in realising the importance of marrying inner improvement with outer success. Last year saw the appointment of a Minister for Happiness to the cabinet. Education and health care have long been fundamental pillars of UAE society and the federal government has invested heavily in both. Take Dubai Healthcare City, first launched in 2002 and now home to more than 160 medical partners. Within the zone lies Mohammed bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, which offers a threefold system of research, education and hands-on work experience to ensure education and health care advance hand-in-hand. In the capital, a US$20 million (Dh75 million) donation from Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, will help fund a new research institute that will develop treatments for infectious diseases. Earlier this year, more than 120 initiatives were unveiled at the UAE government annual meeting, with an emphasis on social, psychological and family counselling. It is symptomatic of a longstanding recognition that looking after the wellbeing of its population and nurturing its intellectual capabilities is as crucial to a country's prospects as bricks and mortar or gold bullion.
Mr Kim said: "It turns out that human capital is the majority of the wealth in the world." As it turns out, he was preaching to the converted.