x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Abu Dhabi approves raft of new projects

Executive Council gives green light to new and existing plans for housing, transport, construction, health and education.

ABU DHABI // An unprecedented swath of new projects and expansions to existing ones was announced in Abu Dhabi yesterday, providing for significant new investment in social infrastructure, health and education and giving a boost to economic development in the emirate.

The announcement by Abu Dhabi Executive Council signalled the conclusion of a wide ranging evaluation of projects in the capital, reconfirming plans for developments on Saadiyat Island and Khalifa Port, and the planned Midfield terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport.

Officials did not disclose the total value of the projects approved, but the sheer scope of the investment is expected to give a jolt to the emirate's economy. The entities responsible for each individual project are expected to release in-depth details on expenditure and timelines in coming weeks.

Yesterday's announcement emphasised social projects targeted at Emirati citizens, including new housing developments, 14 new hospitals and 24 new schools.

New homes will be built in areas such as Liwa, Nema, North Wathba and Al Hayer. The North Wathba residential project will be one of the largest to date, covering an area of 4,178 hectares and 13,150 new homes. The new housing schemes are in addition to 7,608 residential villas that will be completed and handed over to UAE citizens in 2012.

Many of the emirate's rural areas will benefit from "construction, renovation and infrastructure projects", the Council said.

In addition to the 24 new schools to be built, the Executive Council also approved the construction of six special-needs rehabilitation centres, including new autism centres in Abu Dhabi and Al Ain. In addition, ten existing schools will be refurbished.

The healthcare projects will also be complemented by Mubadala Healthcare's Abu Dhabi Cleveland Clinic on Sowwah Island, a 364-bed facility, support for which was reaffirmed by the council.

To improve services on a local community and emirate-wide level, Abu Dhabi Police received approval to provide "high-end security and training infrastructure facilities" to ensure standards are maintained and improved.

Funds were earmarked for the long-awaited Midfield terminal at Abu Dhabi International Airport, which will accommodate 27 million passengers a year. The 700,000 square metre terminal, estimated to cost about Dh25 billion, is integral to the continuing growth of Etihad Airways and Abu Dhabi's tourism sector. The project is expected to open in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The Executive Council also reaffirmed plans for the Saadiyat Cultural District, finalising the budgets and expected opening dates for four museums, including the Zayed National Museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. The council statement said the museums will help Abu Dhabi to become a "world-class tourist destination."

In addition, a new Al Ain National Museum will be built in conjunction with the development of the cultural Hili site, an Iron Age irrigation system.

Two new industrial zones are to be built in the Western Region, one in Al Rowais and another in Madinat Zayed. The latter will be 2.5 square kilometres and focus on oil and gas, food manufacturing and logistics. Al Rowais industrial zone will be a centre for chemical, petrochemical, plastic manufacturing, oil and gas, cement, building and logistics.

A final budget for the Khalifa Port and the Khalifa Industrial Zone (Kizad) was also approved, though no specific details were released.

"These investments reflect the growing importance of Khalifa Port to Abu Dhabi's economy," the Council said.

An auto city area which will be the hub of the emirate's auto-related businesses will be created next to the Industrial City Abu Dhabi. The Council said it would "attract investment in automobile manufacturing and spare part logistics for facilities across the region".

The Council also specified the construction of two major road projects in the Emirate, including the Al Mafraq-Ghuwaifat highway, which it billed as "one of the most important road development projects in the emirate". The second is the expansion of Emirates Road between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.

A total of 246km of roads and 15 new overhead interchanges will be added. The aim is to improve traffic flow and keep up with growing traffic resulting from economic development.

Funds have also been allocated for the design of a metro and tram system in Abu Dhabi, and an improved drainage system for the capital, Al Ain and the Western Region.

The Executive Council gave the go-ahead for Al Shams solar power plant, being developed by Masdar, Abu Dhabi's clean-energy company. The project is expected to be in operation by August to provide an extra 100MW to the Abu Dhabi power grid. The Council also approved the construction of the Sir Bani Yas wind-farm project.

These two projects signal a major step forward in the Government's mission of having 7 per cent of energy supplied by renewable sources by 2020.

Adding impetus to the goal of having UAE nationals make up 50 per cent of the workforce by 2015, the Council agreed to fund training and development programmes at the Strata project, Mubadala Aerospace's manufacturing unit. The project is part of the emirate's ambitions to become a major player in aircraft manufacturing and maintenance industry.

Yesterday's announcement is expected to help quell rumours and concerns about developments and economic growth in Abu Dhabi, following a comprehensive review of the emirate's plans begun earlier in the year.

Collectively, the projects will diversify the Abu Dhabi economy and place it on a stronger footing to meet the goals of Plan 2030, the wide-ranging economic vision for Abu Dhabi's development over the next two decades.