Former FNC member tells of Sheikh Zayed’s generosity even before the UAE was formed
ABU DHABI // Ahmad Al Jaber can remember a time in the early days of Abu Dhabi Government when Sheikh Zayed had to take loans from banks for development projects to help his people.
“In 1966 I was 24 and I was a member of the development council, which was chaired by Sheikh Zayed,” said Mr Al Jaber, who was also a member of the Federal National Council.
“Before that Sheikh Zayed was the Emir of Al Ain and he had little money, but was very generous to others.”
This was the situation from the early 1960s until 1966, when Sheikh Zayed became Ruler of Abu Dhabi.
At this time, the emirate was producing only about 40,000 barrels of oil a day.
“So he started taking loans from banks to pay the people who flocked to him from every place,” Mr Al Jaber said.
After the UAE was formed in 1971, Sheikh Zayed continued these projects across the country. The included setting up an agricultural centre in Sharjah and a dairy farm in Ras Al Khaimah.
He was equally concerned about investing in segments of society.
“I used to visit him often and he once asked me, ‘What can we do to help the youth?’ I told him they needed sports clubs,” Mr Al Jaber said.
So he funded the establishment of clubs and donated cars so that players could get to the games.
In 1966, Sheikh Zayed established the scientific institute in Al Ain, and students from across the emirates enrolled.
“Then, in another instance, he asked me about women and their get-togethers, and what could be done for them like we did for the youth,” Mr Al Jaber said. “When he asked me this question I studied the issue before answering.”
Mr Al Jaber proposed a union for women in every emirate, and it was implemented.
Then Sheikh Zayed turned his attention to helping fishermen and seafarers.
“I said the resources are weak. He said, ‘We will find a solution’.”
Fishermen’s unions were set up in each emirate, serving as a workshop for them.
“And whoever didn’t have a boat could get a loan, without interest, and the tools he needed for the sea,” Mr Al Jaber said.
He also transformed the widespread tradition of raising and racing camels into an organised international sport.
“They were widespread before the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Government, but there is a difference between it being random and it becoming an organised field,” Mr Al Jaber said.
Updated: October 24, 2016 04:00 AM