ABU DHABI // The President, Sheikh Khalifa, has announced an extra Dh20 billion in funding for social and economic projects as part of his National Day address.
Sheikh Khalifa, the Ruler of Abu Dhabi, also pledged to increase housing assistance from the Zayed Housing Programme to Dh800,000 from Dh500,000, the state news agency Wam reported.
“We have decided to allocate an additional Dh20 billion for funding works and projects under the initiatives we have launched to achieve the aspired standard of welfare to our citizens,” he said on Sunday.
“In recognition of the maximum priority of housing as a stepping stone for a decent and safe life, we launched our initiative to build 10,000 houses for citizens in various emirates.
“We instructed the Government to immediately implement this initiative and secure the necessary funds to complete it.
"We also decided to raise the housing assistance the citizen gets from the Zayed Housing Programme from Dh500,000 to Dh800,000."
In October the Cabinet, chaired by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, approved a spending package of Dh140bn for the three years between 2014 and 2016.
It endorsed a budget of Dh46.2bn for next year, with 51 per cent – or Dh23.5bn – to be spent on social development projects.
The President voiced his support for the move.
“Our appreciation also goes to the federal Government for earmarking over 50 per cent of the Union budget for the social sector in the fiscal year 2014,” he said.
Sheikh Khalifa said the funds would “develop and upgrade education, health, labour, social and Islamic affairs, culture, youth and community development, the Zayed Housing Programme, and other social benefits”.
He pledged to advance the country’s progress by boosting economic growth, improving the quality of life for citizens and making the UAE one of the world’s most advanced nations in justice, security, education, culture, housing, sports, health and environment.
He said this year's National Day was even more of a celebration thanks to Dubai's successful bid to host Expo 2020.
“We and all the UAE people feel extreme joy and pleasure that this year’s National Day anniversary coincides with the selection of Dubai as host for the 2020 World Expo, the world’s largest and most prestigious exhibition,” Sheikh Khalifa said.
“It is a well-earned victory and a certificate of appreciation for our fathers who laid down the foundation of a strong state that can feel proud, in front of the nations of the world, of its achievements.
“It also represents a medal for every Emirati man and woman, as well as for every resident living in the state.
“It emphasises the stature of the UAE as an international hub for attracting business and as an ideal platform for the meeting of creative ideas and minds.”
The President paid a glowing tribute to Sheikh Mohammed for Dubai’s winning bid.
“We also highly appreciate and value the national teams for their tireless, faithful dedication over two years.”
In his address, Sheikh Khalifa said National Day was also a time to reflect on the legacy of the late President, Sheikh Zayed.
"December 2 is a day on which we recall the impressive and insightful life of the late Founding Father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan," he said.
“We also recall his fellow founding fathers who devoted their energy and thought to establish a strong, viably structured federal state, a prosperous nation, where people enjoy justice, safety and welfare, where people feel respected and dignified and live a glorious present with a bright future.
“It is a day of expressing our gratitude to great men, who laid down the foundation of a successful state whose achievements have surprised the world, and for providing its citizens with sources of strength and welfare.”
Sheikh Khalifa said the country’s remarkable achievements had placed the UAE as one of the top-ranking nations in terms of human development, happiness and satisfaction.
“This, in itself, represents a bumper harvest of what our founding forefathers nurtured,” he said.
The President expressed a need to maintain rich local and cultural traditions and expressed thanks for the Flag Day initiative, launched by Sheikh Mohammed.
He also commended continued efforts in Emiratisation.
Sheikh Khalifa applauded plans for energy diversification and called for the adoption of a national plan to develop sports and associated facilities.
In regards to the wider region, he expressed concern about rising tensions that have fuelled spells of extremism, terrorism and violence.
The President spoke of the UAE’s support for initiatives to enable Egypt to regain its leading role in the Arab world, restoration of peace to Syria, calm to Tunisia, security to Libya and stability to Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Afghanistan and others.
A special emphasis was given to increasing pressure on Israel to comply with international resolutions on its withdrawal from all Arab-occupied territories, and to advance efforts to make the Middle East free of weapons of mass destruction.
Sheikh Khalifa described what has been accomplished over the past 42 years as an exceptional and phenomenal achievement in which all Emiratis have played a part.