UAE President announces $5.

4bn funds for social projects

UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan. UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan has announced the allocation of AED20bn ($5.44bn) for funding social and economic projects in his National Day address. He said the government was committed to improving living standards for its citizens, and putting the UAE on the map of the world's most advanced nations, in terms of justice, security, education, culture, housing, sports, health, environment and smart cities. In comments published by news agency WAM prior to the 42nd National Day on Monday, he said: "We have decided to allocate additional AED20bn for funding works and projects under the initiatives we have launched to achieve the aspired standard of welfare to our citizens. "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 to deliver justice, equality and welfare. We also instructed the government to immediately implement this initiative and secure the necessary funds to complete it." He added: "The future to which we aspire will not be within our reach without a rich, influential society and cultural environment that strengthens self-confidence, makes us feel proud of our leaders, represents our heritage and promotes our adherence to our Islam as a religion of mercy, tolerance, moderation and openness." He also congratulated the UAE's leaders and people on the historic victory of Dubai to host the 2020 World Expo.

Sheikh Khalifa paid a glowing tribute to the Vice President and Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, on the achievement. "It emphasises the stature of the UAE as an international hub for attracting business and as an ideal platform for meeting of creative ideas and minds. We also highly appreciate and value the national work teams for their tireless, faithful dedication over two years," he said in comments published by news agency WAM. "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." Sheikh Khalifa also commended the continuing efforts to reform the local labour market "by removing the obstacles hindering progress of Emiratisation which limit the participation of national professionals in it". He also applauded plans that have been announced for diversifying sources of renewable and alternative energy. On the issue of the UAE's dispute with Iran over the occupation of the islands of Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunb at the mouth of the Strait of Hormuz, he added: "We will also continue to call for peace, development and cooperation, appreciating and valuing highly the GCC and Arab support for the UAE's historic and legitimate right to its three occupied islands... asserting that the only way to resolve this issue is through direct negotiations or international arbitration that strengthens the opportunities for security and stability in the region." Internationally, Sheikh Khalifa expressed his deep concerns about tensions in the Middle East region, which have promoted sedition and which have fuelled spells of extremism, terrorism and violence.