ABU DHABI // Residents of the largest region in the country have asked for greater representation on the Federal National Council to better address the unique issues they face.
Although it makes up more than 50 per cent of the UAE’s land mass, and with oil and gas fields that contribute 45 per cent of the country’s gross domestic product, Al Gharbia is sparsely populated, with most residents being Emirati. And the Western Region’s population is in danger of shrinking further still as a lack of basic facilities takes its toll, said a resident.
› Ahead of the FNC election day on October 3, The National's reporters are travelling across the seven emirates to speak to Emiratis and find out the issues that affect them – and what they expect from members of a new Federal National Council. Read them here.
“I see more families and youth migrating to cities like Abu Dhabi due to what is lacking in our region,” said Ali Al Hammadi, who has lived all his life in Al Gharbia.
A resident of the costal town of Al Mirfa, a port 177 kilometres west of the capital that hosts the annual Al Gharbia Watersports Festival, Mr Al Hammadi said his region was in desperate need of an industrial area to provide services to residents – and more housing.
“Every time we need to carry out basic repairs on our cars we have to tow them all the way to Abu Dhabi or Madinat Zayed. Madinat Zayed is the only city in the region to benefit from an industrial area,” said the 44-year-old.
Mr Al Hammadi also highlighted the lack of housing available to non-Emiratis.
He said the municipality put pressure on expatriates to leave residential areas that have been designated only for nationals without providing alternatives.
“Foreign workers, doctors, teachers and government employees end up having to break the law by living on random farms and villas owned by Emiratis because there is no fitting place for them,” he said.
Mr Al Hammadi said he hoped candidates from Al Gharbia would focus on the concerns of the population.
“Only a son of the region truly knows our concerns and, if elected, we hope our candidates stay true to the promises they make so we can preserve the region,” he said.
Mr Al Hammadi thanked the Government and the country’s leaders for developing the main highway that connect the Western Region to Abu Dhabi city and the UAE to Saudi Arabia.
Another lifelong Al Gharbia resident who thought local representation would benefit the Western Region was Mohammed Al Ameri, 20.
“We are advancing fast in the region with new housing projects, police stations, malls, farms and markets. But this development would be even faster if we had a person born and raised in Al Gharbia in office,” said the Madinat Zayed native.
The UAE has invested heavily in Al Gharbia in the past few years with a focus on energy projects such as the Barakah nuclear plant, the Bab sour gas project, the Shams 1 solar power plant near Madinat Zayed, and expansions to the Ruwais oil refinery.
FNC candidate Khaled Al Qubaisi, who sees Al Gharbia as a second home having spent childhood summers in Liwa as well as visiting his family’s farm there every month, said he understood people’s desire to have representatives from the area.
“But this is not necessary, as all elected members should first and foremost take the entire nation into account,” he said.
Having attended an open FNC session held for all candidates this week, he said that message was relayed to all attending by the General Secretary of the FNC, Dr Mohammed Al Mazrouei.