With their stunning natural beauty, the Northern Emirates can seem worlds away from the urban centres of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. But while they have not developed at the same rate as the nation's two most populous emirates, they have not been entirely forgotten, either.
As The National reported yesterday, the federal Government is further stepping up efforts to improve the quality of life of nationals in the north, promising new job creation programmes and improvements to critical infrastructure.
"There is a real focus on creating projects in Fujairah, Ras al Khaimah, Ajman and Umm al Qaiwain because of the guidelines from the leadership that the quality of life enjoyed by Abu Dhabi has to be also reflected in other emirates," said the Minister of Economy, Sultan al Mansouri. These are "exactly the policies we are working on now".
As far back as 2008, Sheikh Khalifa, the President of the UAE, pledged billions to develop the country's northern reaches. In February, the Government called for an evaluation of the region's services, followed by an infusion of Dh5.7 billion to develop electricity and water infrastructure.
These and other efforts have helped address the slow pace of development between emirates; current approaches will close this gap further. And yet, even more can be done to spread the nation's prosperity.
Jobs may be the north's most pressing need. Unemployment among Emiratis stands at 13 per cent, with the Northern Emirates bearing the majority of the joblessness. To help ease the strain, the International Monetary Fund recommended last month that UAE federal ministries be located in northern emirates as a way to create jobs. So far the Government has not gone so far.
Infrastructure improvements are also needed, and in this regard, the Government has vowed to deliver. What's needed now is a fast turnaround to improve living standards and allow small businesses to grow.
Some parts of the Northern Emirates are clearly flourishing. Fujairah has in recent years become a major port for exports and oil bunkering. Other areas still suffer chronic power shortages and the effects of the economic crisis. Crafting creative ways to encourage development and growth will strengthen national identity and build lasting prosperity.