x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Committee to manage Dh16bn for northern infrastructure

Sheikh Khalifa is creating a committee that will oversee a Dh16bn infrastructure fund for the northern emirates.

Labourers work on a road project in Ras al Khaimah.
Labourers work on a road project in Ras al Khaimah.

A special committee is being formed to manage Dh16 billion (US$4.35bn) worth of new infrastructure projects in the northern emirates. Funds for the initiative, announced in March by Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, President of the UAE and Ruler of Abu Dhabi, have yet to be disbursed by the committee, which will have control over the allocation of funds. Some regional authorities say they have yet to see details of the investment plan.

The committee will answer directly to the office of Sheikh Khalifa, the body in charge of financing the development projects. Zahra al Aboudi, the executive manager for housing and urban planning at the Ministry of Public Works, which is in charge of the technical aspects of the plan, said local authorities would be consulted by the Federal Government under the spending plan and would play a role in defining what kind of infrastructure projects would be built. But local governments would not be in control of funding, she said.

"Their role is to define their needs, their projects, but the funding is another story. "There will be a committee that will belong to His Highness's office. They will control the money and all the small issues." Ms Aboudi did not know who would be on the committee. Dr Musabih Rashid Humaid, the general manager of Umm al Qaiwain Municipality, said it was not clear whether the distribution of money would be disbursed on the basis of need or on the population size of the particular emirate.

The proposed projects include the building of new highways and houses, road and port improvements and public parks. Much of the money is earmarked for Ajman, Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah and Umm al Qaiwain - collectively known as the northern emirates - which have old and deteriorating infrastructure. Dr Humaid expressed concern that the multibillion-dirham initiative might be at odds with the Umm al Qaiwain Municipality's own development plans, which included improving public services and transforming the area into a tourist destination.

"We hope the spending on infrastructure will be enough, especially for the sewage treatment, roads, electricity, which is urgently needed," Dr Humaid said. An official for Fujairah Municipality, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he could not recall being consulted about the new infrastructure scheme since it was announced. "We hear about these projects from Abu Dhabi, but we haven't seen them come in to action," he said.

There is concern that the northern emirates' dilapidated highways, sewerage and drainage systems are having a negative effect on the country's economy. The development plan is intended, in part, to keep them on pace with the rapid economic growth occurring in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Ms Aboudi said the Ministry of Public Works, which had been conducting surveys for the initiative, would go to painstaking lengths to ensure the right projects received the necessary attention.

The ministry was preparing to nominate a consultant who would conduct a study listing the importance of projects under a "master plan", which would be used as a guide for the Federal Government. She estimated that the study would take between 10 months and a year to complete, at which time work would begin. "We will come up with a list of projects that will be sorted according to the importance and urgency of that project," she said. "Then we'll consult each emirate to find out exactly their priorities. And then we'll take the plan to the committee for approval."