'Welfare of our citizens is core of state's strategy'

General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Chairman of the Executive Council of the emirate of Abu Dhabi, stated that the provision of well-being standards for all nationals is a key priority and a focus of overall state's strategy.

"We have a firm belief that a leading position for our emirate and nation can only be achieved in association with an appropriate addressing of national issues and aspirations as a basic theme of our development plans," he added.

Sheikh Mohammed was addressing the Executive Council's meeting held at the Abu Dhabi Crown Prince's court on Wednesday. The Council took a number of key decisions: approval of financial support of Dhs4.813 billion for the Abu Dhabi Retirement Pensions & Benefits Fund, approval of additional budget to increase the number of beneficiaries for academic scholarships, and establishment of new vocational schools throughout the country to consolidate the labor market with national skills.

Chaired by Sheikh Mohammed with the attendance of Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, National Security Counselor and Vice-Chairman of the Executive Council, the Executive Council approved a series of projects in the infrastructure, economic, social and human development sectors related to, social security, economy, education, energy and transport. This is consistent with the ongoing effort of the Executive Council to provide the highest quality of government services for the emirate.

The Abu Dhabi Crown Prince confirmed that ensuring well-being standards and social welfare for nationals is a key priority within the overall state's strategy, in keeping with the guidelines of the UAE President.

Sheikh Mohammed stated: "We have a firm belief that a leading position for our emirate and nation can only be achieved in association with an appropriate addressing of national issues and aspirations as a basic theme of our development plans. In this regard, our wise leadership will make every effort to provide integrated development and welfare for our future generations in the educational, medical and social fields that reflect favorably on our country's development." The Executive Council discussed the status of the Abu Dhabi Retirement Pensions '&' Benefits Fund's financial liabilities and the steps required to be taken to settle the financial shortfall that had resulted from the most recent increase in salaries. The Council approved an additional amount of Dh4.813 billion, as well as the adoption of a new framework that will enable the Fund to meet its additional financial liabilities.

The Abu Dhabi Retirement Pensions '&' Benefits Fund is responsible for the management of subscriptions, pensions and end-of-service benefits for national retirees in the government, semi-Government and private sectors in Abu Dhabi. Funding is based on long-term investment strategies that ensure timely delivery of pensions and retirement compensation to its beneficiaries.

The Executive Council approved the establishment of an Industrial Development Bureau in Abu Dhabi, that will have the responsibility for coordinating and controlling the application of industrial strategy, monitoring the industrial sector's performance, facilitating economic development, implementing and promoting sector- related policies, plans and programs, and managing the master land development blueprint for industrial areas in the emirate.

The Bureau has been established to facilitate business and increase competitiveness across the industrial sector amongst stakeholders and third parties, especially investors. It will achieve this by streamlining and improving government requirements and processes, providing a single point of contact for all services, information and requests, and saving time currently consumed in these processes.

The Executive Council approved the development of a scholarship and academic delegations administration system by the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC). A resolution issued by ADEC's Director General will ensure the appropriate organisation and management of academic delegations and study leave both inside the country and abroad.

Abroad. ADEC will recommend a general policy for academic delegations, study leave, regulations and resolutions, identifying designated countries and higher education academic institutions and required specializations, terms and conditions required for applicants, funding and compensation, reviewing academic reports for selected students, and other matters related to regulating work in this regard.

The Executive Council also approved an additional budget of Dh197 million over the next four years to increase the number of students who could potentially benefit from scholarships. The scholarship policy adopted by the Abu Dhabi Government seeks to promote UAE national capacities through the provision of international standard higher education, and developing local capabilities in alignment with current and anticipated labor market demands.

The Executive Council approved the establishment of a number of vocational secondary schools for males and females throughout the country, in keeping with the Government's plans to consolidate the labour market with national technical skills. These schools aim to promote a high standard of vocational training and to leverage national capabilities in alignment with the academic specialisations.

The technical secondary schools typically include a number of specialisations which are aligned with the current and anticipated labour market needs, and they provide opportunities for students to subsequently pursue careers in disciplines such as mechanical engineering, electronic engineering, aircraft overhaul, supply chain management, logistics, finance and accounting.

There are currently four technical secondary schools across the UAE, one each in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Ras Al Khaimah and Al Fujairah. Five more will be built during the current year in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain, Al Marfaa and Ajman. The total number of students enrolled will increase to 2,000.

The Abu Dhabi Centre for Technical and Vocational Education and Training is responsible for the development of the technical education sector in Abu Dhabi by laying out the policies and standards that regulate education within occupational and technical institutions. ADEC works together with the Centre in developing a strategy that will mutually benefit other participants in the sector such as public educational agencies, organizations and training institutions.

The Executive Council reviewed the Al Mirfa power production and water desalination plant development project, as part of the Government's plans to ensure that the growing demands for power and water are met.

The plant's development process complies fully with international environmental standards and cost of production targets, while increasing power production capacity to 1500 MW of electricity, and desalination capacity to 53 million gallons of water.

The Executive Council, representing Abu Dhabi as the major shareholder of the Etihad Rail Company, approved authorisation for the company to secure funding for the first stage of the railway project in Abu Dhabi.

The first stage of the Etihad Rail project involves the establishment of a 270 kilometer long freight line connecting the Shah, Habshan and Al Ruwais areas that will be constructed in two phases due to be completed by 2013 and 2014 respectively.

The second stage of the railway project will connect Abu Dhabi and Dubai up to the boundaries of Saudi Arabia and the Sultanate of Oman respectively, and the third stage will connect Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al Qaiwain, Ras Al Khaimah and Al Fujairah.

The total cost of the 1,200 km Etihad Rail project is estimated to be Dh40 billion, and is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 at the same time as the GCC Rail project. The new railway is expected to make a major positive contribution to trade, the economy, urban development and population growth, by means of providing a safe, operationally efficient and sustainable transport network that both reduces the cost of shipping goods, and increases efficiency versus other traditional transportation modes.

The project will have multiple additional benefits that include contributing to the development of small communities by connecting them with the main cities, increasing passenger traffic by land transport, promoting trade within the GCC, limiting the environmental impact produced by transport vehicles by reducing carbon emission by up to 80 per cent, reducing traffic congestion, road maintenance costs and road traffic accidents.

The Executive Council reviewed the "Public Parking Management" project in Abu Dhabi, submitted by the Department of Transport. The purpose of the project is to organise parking, ensure full utilisation of available facilities, and further increase their overall efficiency.

The project provides a number of services, including the management and operation of surface and multi-story public parking, the establishment of electronic parking management systems, and the provision of customer services through a Call Centre and Customer Service centres.