“While people are proud of their achievements, we are proud of being the children of Sheikh Zayed, and while people talk of their history, we speak of the history of giving that began with the formation of the UAE,” said Sheikh Khalifa, epitomising the nation’s approach from the day it was established to its phase of empowerment.
On November 4, 2004, Sheikh Khalifa assumed power and, up until his death, helped the country progress from the foundation phase to the empowerment stage.
Over this short period, the UAE topped international competitiveness indexes and became the second-largest economy in the Arab region, despite its small area and population.
Moreover, the UAE was the first Arab nation to reach Mars and is one of few countries with significant achievements in the space sector.
The UAE’s achievements during this empowerment phase are reflected in the lives of its people and business community.
After assuming power, Sheikh Khalifa launched the first strategic plan of the UAE government to achieve balanced and sustainable development and ensure the well-being of UAE residents.
In 2009, he was re-elected as the President and the UAE overcame the financial crises and political issues facing the region due to his active foreign policy.
So how did the UAE manage to accomplish significant achievements during the empowerment phase? State news agency Wam monitored these milestones and challenges in the following report:
UAE leaders have prioritised the health sector and increased public spending, amounting at times to 7 per cent of the federal budget.
This fact is highlighted by the spending on the sector in 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, which amounted to Dh3.83 billion, Dh4.2bn, Dh4.5bn, Dh4.4bn and Dh4.84bn, respectively.
This policy also proved successful when the sector faced the coronavirus pandemic, demonstrating a high level of efficiency supported by the many well-equipped public and private hospitals.
The sector’s efficiency was further supported by the country’s efforts to establish medical cities, including Khalifa City in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Medical City and Sharjah City.
Coinciding with these achievements, most Emirati hospitals are internationally accredited, and the country has become a leading medical destination, underpinned by the rising number of hospitals, which went from 16 in 1975 to 169 in 2020.
These hospitals are managed by highly qualified medical staff, numbering 8,995 in 2020 in the government sector and 17,136 in the private sector, compared to 792 doctors in 1975.
The number of nurses also reached 56,045 working in the government sector in 2020, — an increase of 252 per cent compared to 1975.
The country has prioritised health insurance and provided it to citizens for free, in addition to comprehensive medical coverage for all segments of society, especially the elderly and people of determination.
In 2017, the UAE established the first cancer treatment centre utilising proton technology in the Middle East and GCC region.
The Ministry of Health and Prevention was keen to integrate artificial intelligence into medical services, used in more than 100 facilities nationwide.
More than 85 per cent of Emirati hospitals have international accreditation.
At the same time, the UAE has kept pace with innovations in the health sector, launching initiatives that encourage such advances in the medical field.
The UAE is one of the few countries that uses medical robotics technology when conducting major surgery.
The UAE’s spending on the health and education sectors underscores the leadership’s belief in the importance of these two areas to achieving sustainable development, with spending from 2016 to 2020 accounting for between 20 per cent and 22 per cent respectively of the federal budget.
With the budget allocated to the national education sector standing at Dh10.41bn, Dh10.46bn, Dh10.40bn, Dh10.2bn and Dh6.536bn for 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020, respectively, the average share of the federal budget is 15 per cent.
The UAE believes the education system is the driver of development and ensures the right to free education for all citizens. From 2012, education became mandatory for everyone over the age of six until secondary education, which was reinforced by issuing the Children’s Rights Law (Wadeema).
The UAE’s education strategy established a system based on the skills of the 21st century. It aims to provide higher education that can compete with the world’s best universities.
The Mohammed bin Rashid Smart Learning Initiative, launched in 2012, was an ideal model covering all schools in the country and created an educational environment in schools that included smart classes.
In 1973, the country had 110 schools with 40,000 students, while in 2007, the percentage of educated citizens reached 88.7 per cent of the population.
The UAE Vision 2021 highlighted the need to advance education to the highest in the world and confirmed that the coming years would involve comprehensive transformations in learning and education, led by smart education.
The national education strategy aims to ensure equal education, maintain the quality and efficiency of institutional education, promote scientific research, encourage students to enrol in higher education, achieve innovation, and support smart education.
Subsequently, the National Strategy for Higher Education 2030 affirmed the importance of improving the scientific and technical skills of students, to support the growth of the economy.