Ties that bind and power the UAE's growth

Sheikh Khalifa's allocation of Dh5.7 billion towards improving the structure of the Northern Emirates is an indication that the development of that region is just as vital to the country as Dubai and Abu Dhabi's.

Each emirate has its own character and challenges but their individual development is inextricably linked to the larger national project. The President of the UAE's decision yesterday to expand investment in the infrastructure that provides the northern emirates water and electricty reinforces that principle of national unity. Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed's allocation of Dh5.7 billion for these projects follows the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed's recent tour of the region and consultations with its citizens.

The rugged terrain and remoteness of parts of the Northern Emirates are integral to their identity and to the nation's. These blessings can be burdens, however, when it comes to development. It is easy to underestimate, for instance, the difficulty of providing electricity and water over the region's craggy mountains and through its desert valleys. The populations of the Northern Emirates have also outgrown the capacity of their infrastructure, which this greater federal support will help to remedy.

For buildings and businesses belonging to citizens in the Northern Emirates, Shekih Khalifa has ordered 1,300 megawatts of power to be delivered from Abu Dhabi's electrical grid. Electricity shortages have caused rolling blackouts during summer months when demand peaks but it is prudent to prepare for this while the weather is still cool.

The benefits of most of these recent investments will be felt for far longer than a season. Construction of water pipelines from Kalba, at the southern end of the UAE's Coast, to Dibba, in the north, through the cities of Fujairah and Khor Fakkan, will support their growth for a generation. New power plants will also be built to serve Khor Fakkan and Fujairah.

Infrastructure, of course, is more than bricks and mortar. These investments in power and water supply are most important in how they help to buttress the larger efforts of individual emirates to expand opportunity for their citizens and strengthen their individual institutions.

The Northern Emirates have reached a critical stage in their development, one that Abu Dhabi and Dubai have already passed. The lessons learned from their successes and struggles can serve as a helpful guide to the Northern Emirates as they chart their course. The nation can also learn a larger lesson from Sheikh Khalifa's decision to fund these improvements: the present challenges and the progress of the Northern Emirates are just as important to the nation as Dubai or Abu Dhabi's. It is as true today as it was at the founding of the federation: each emirate is stronger from standing together.