ABU DHABI (Reuters) - The United Arab Emirates, watching as Arab unrest spreads to nearby Gulf countries, will invest $1.6 billion (980.6 million pounds) to improve infrastructure in less developed emirates, state media said on Wednesday.
The decision to expand water and electricity networks by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan, came after he saw living conditions on a tour of the world’s third largest oil exporter last month, the state news agency WAM reported.
“Electricity supply is to be provided to buildings and shops belonging to citizens in the northern emirates, the president ordered,” WAM said.
Revolts against oppressive leaders and economic hardships have been sweeping through the Arab world over the past two months, ousting presidents of Egypt and Tunisia. They now challenge regimes in Libya as well as nearby Bahrain and Oman.
The UAE, the second largest Arab economy, has escaped the unrest so far. Its relatively small local population enjoys one of the world’s highest economic outputs per capita at over $47,000.
“There is unrest in so many Arabic countries. The issue is causing discomfort and has been addressed in the UAE twenty-five to thirty years ago,” said Khaled Abdulla al-Qubaisi, a senior advisor at Mubadala, an investment vehicle of the Abu Dhabi government.
“Basic necessities are provided for jobs, health, good quality of life in Abu Dhabi and the UAE. We don’t see that as an issue,” he said on the sidelines of a conference in Abu Dhabi earlier on Tuesday.
Potential for unrest would most likely come from the five northern emirates, whose citizens have benefited less from capital Abu Dhabi’s vast oil wealth or trade and property-fuelled development in business hub Dubai.
Ras al-Khaimah, one of the northern emirates, has seen small protests in past years but they were quickly crushed by Abu Dhabi security forces. The emirate sits on the Strait of Hormuz, through which 40 percent of the world’s seaborne oil passes.
The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority was instructed to supply the Federal Electricity and Water Authority with around 1,300 megawatts of power to meet projected demand.
Instructions to build a 100 km water pipeline costing 900 million dirhams from northern towns of Kalba to Dibba has been ordered, as well as a 60 km pipeline worth 300 million dirhams in the Umm al-Quwain emirate, WAM said.
A range of supermarkets in the UAE have agreed with the economy ministry to cut their prices for food and other essential commodity items by up to 40 percent for one month, an official said on Tuesday.
Reporting by Martina Fuchs and Stanley Carvalho
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