ABU DHABI // Oil is not the country's greatest asset. Emiratis are.
That was the message from the President Sheikh Khalifa, as he outlined the country's successes in developing the Emirati workforce and paid tribute to the increasingly prominent role nationals are playing in the growth of the country.
"Human capital is the real wealth of this country, before and after oil," Sheikh Khalifa said.
"Serving the interests of citizens is the goal that we strive for every day. Building human resources is central to comprehensive social and economic development."
The President's words were quoted by Wam, the state news agency, yesterday alongside a famous quote from his father, the founding President Sheikh Zayed: "The individual human forms the basis for any process of civilisation and the pivot of real progress."
The UAE leads the Arab World in human development, according to the UN. In 2011 the Human Development World Report ranked it 30th among 187 countries - two places higher than in 2010.
"Although the UAE has achieved the highest per capita income in the world, it has also achieved unprecedented leaps in human development, particularly health care and education, by virtue of its successful strategies and vision of investing its income in these two fields," said Amatul Sowsawa, assistant secretary general for the UN Development Programme in the Arab region.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi, Ms Sowsawa said the launch of the report was "an opportunity to highlight the challenges and opportunities facing human development in the Arab region, and to highlight the UAE's admirable march of human development in the recent years".
Sultan Al Mansouri, Minister of Economy, said the Government used oil revenues to promote human development through education and by building infrastructure.
Mr Al Mansouri emphasised the important role Emirati women were playing in this process.
At the forefront of human development is the Absher Initiative, conceived by Sheikh Khalifa to improve Emirati participation in the labour market.
The initiative has prompted several national companies to announce plans to recruit more national graduates.
The Emirates Group has agreed to hire 2,000 more Emiratis over the next five years, while DP World has agreed to recruit 345 men and women over the same period.
Thanks to the initiative, Etihad Airways added more than 260 Emiratis to its workforce, and now has more than 1,250 in its seven divisions.
It plans to add another 1,500 over the next five years.
Sixteen other companies have recently joined up, creating 3,768 jobs for Emiratis with another 20,000 planned for the next five years.
Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Presidential Affairs, introduced the programme in November last year.
"The initiative is built on four strategic pillars: creating job opportunities for UAE citizens, training and development, vocational guidance, and encouraging UAE citizens to work in the private sector," Sheikh Mansour said.
Last year, Absher provided jobs for more than 1,186 Emirati male and female job-seekers.
On April 2 this year, the Absher Initiative began its second programme, focusing on training and development towards the Emiratisation of the workforce.