x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Al Gharbia 'will be new economic hub'

Al Gharbia will become the next frontier for investors and a "new economic hub", a business conference was told yesterday.

Aerial photograph of green and desert in Liwa, the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.
Aerial photograph of green and desert in Liwa, the Western Region of Abu Dhabi.

ABU DHABI // Al Gharbia will become the next frontier for investors and a "new economic hub", a business conference was told yesterday. Mohammed al Mazrouei, the director general of the Western Region Development Council, encouraged potential investors to focus on the area, formerly known as the Western Region, as the Government develops its infrastructure.

He was addressing an audience at the MEED Abu Dhabi Conference 2008 yesterday in the National Exhibition centre. "We've done the pearl diving part, and then we went to agriculture and oil. Tourism is there, too," he said. "What's next? "You're going to tell me." The region, which comprises 70 per cent of the country and more than 83 per cent of Abu Dhabi emirate, has just eight per cent of the country's population.

As the ancestral home to the country's founding Al Nahyan family and the target of Dh98 billion (US$26.7bn) of government investment, Al Gharbia is set for major development. The Government's financial commitment should entice investors, Mr Mazrouei said. "Looking back, it's amazing to think that just 30 years ago, Abu Dhabi emirate was one of the least developed areas of the world," he said. "Today, thanks to great leadership and the abundance of resources... we're a well-known place on the world map that people are interested in learning about and visiting."

By 2005, Al Gharbia, with its abundant oil reserves, was contributing more than Dh115bn to the emirate's yearly GDP. "We're 100 per cent sure that in the next statistics, it's going to be more than this," Mr Mazrouei said. "We welcome anybody with interest to develop something in Al Gharbia." He reminded the audience that Al Gharbia was not limited to the oil and gas sector and that there was potential to develop new sectors.

Mr Mazrouei said Al Gharbia was vigorously moving towards building infrastructure to make the area a future tourist destination. He spoke of plans to build three-star and four-star hotels in the Madinat Zayed area, the region's administration centre. Both hotels are expected to be completed within 18 months. "As investors, we offer you... undulating deserts and 300km of pristine and untouched coastline."

Marine and desert resorts, as well as the newly opened Sir Bani Yas island wildlife sanctuary and Dalma island, are expected to draw in a quarter of a million visitors a year. A new airport link will help shuttle them to and from the rest of the emirate. "There are also some studies to see if we need airports," he said. "Since we're talking about roughly 10 per cent of the population, at the moment we don't need an airport, but we're looking at developing the desert islands and there would need to be an airport there."

Building rail lines to connect residents to other GCC countries may come next. "There are a lot of projects flying around but this has the green light." mkwong@thenational.ae