WHEN THE FEDERATION WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1971, the population was primarily rural and infrastructure was minimal. The new Government immediately focused on providing facilities for its population commensurate with twentieth-century living. Housing, roads, airports and ports, schools and hospitals were built and power, water and telecommunications supplied through the judicious use of oil wealth. By the time the twenty-first century had arrived, all these facilities were well developed, most of the population was urbanised and it was time to bring the private sector into the picture so that the requirements of an increasingly diversified economy and rapidly burgeoning cities could be met.
In emirates with greater land areas whole new urban conurbations complete with the requisite infrastructure are being built to accommodate a rising population. One of the most significant impacts, however, on physical infrastructure in recent years has been the building of dedicated industrial areas, commercial clusters, free zones and massive mixed-use developments designed to provide additional tourist facilities and vastly increase retail and office space. Liberalised real estate and property laws have generated unprecedented development in this sector. In addition, already existing airports are being extended and new airports and ports built to cater for the projected rise in tourism and trade. When the scale of these developments is appreciated, it is not difficult to understand the enormous influence that they are having on urban development in the UAE, literally changing the face of the country, quite apart from the investment that is required in transport, sewerage, electricity, water and telecommunications to service these projects.
It is not surprising, therefore, that the UAE accounts for the bulk of the ongoing and planned infrastructure projects in the GCC countries, amounting to an estimated US$1.3 trillion plus of investment over the 2007/2012 period.
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Urban development in the UAE is proceeding at an unprecedented pace with the private sector working hand in hand with government.