Largest-ever UAE budget of Dh61.35bn approved

By Eudore R. Chand

DUBAI 30 October 2019: A zero-deficit federal budget of Dh61.354 billion for 2020 fiscal year – the largest since the establishment of the UAE – has been approved by the UAE Cabinet, chaired by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai,.

About 31 percent of the budget is allocated to social development, aiming to implement the directives of President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, to offer UAE citizens and residents a decent life and achieve the objectives of the UAE Vision 2021 and the UAE Centennial 2071.

“The year 2020 will be the start of a new and rapidly developing decade. The federal budget is balanced and reflects our national priorities,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

On the sidelines of the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed met with the two Emirati astronauts, Hazza Al Mansoori and Sultan Al Niyadi, and praised the former’s achievement of becoming the first Emirati and Arab astronaut to travel to the International Space Station, said Wam.

During the meeting, Sheikh Mohammed was briefed about the achievements of the UAE’s space sector since the country’s establishment.

“We have achieved the UAE’s dream, Sheikh Zayed’s dream, and his children do not know the impossible. Space is not the end of our ambitions but the beginning of our journey, and we have started training Emirati astronauts to explore Mars,” he said.

Budget Allocations

The budget is distributed to various sectors related Emirati citizens and services, with 31 percent being allocated to social development, 14 percent to infrastructure and economic resources, 6.5 percent to social benefits, and 32.6 percent to government affairs.

Reflecting the strength of the national economy and the country’s abundant resources that can fund economic development projects, the budget amount has been increased more than 300 times since the first budget in 1971 and has been without deficit for the third consecutive year.

The estimated budget allocation to social development and social benefits programmes amount to Dh26.7 billion, or 38 percent of the total budget.

Allocations to the public, higher education and university programmes are to the tune of Dh10.4 billion, or 14.8 percent of the total. The estimated cost of public education programmes amounts to Dh6.7 billion, or 9.5 percent of the total budget while higher and university education is expected to cost Dh3.7 billion, or 5.3 percent.

About Dh4.9 billion, or 6.9 percent of the total, has been allocated to healthcare and disease prevention.

Allocations to the social rights programmes of the Ministry of Community Development amount to Dh3.5 billion, or five percent of the total while Dh1.8 billion has been allocated to the Sheikh Zayed Housing Programme, or 2.5 percent of the total, to provide support for housing for Emiratis.

Social benefit allocations, most notably to pensions, account for Dh4.6 billion or 6.5 percent of the total, in implementation of the directives of the UAE’s leadership to offer decent life to senior citizens, including military veterans and civilians, while other services account for Dh1.6 billion.

Allocations to government affairs amount to Dh23 billion, or 32.6 percent of the total, while Dh9.9 billion is allocated to infrastructure and economic affairs, accounting for 14 percent of the total. Dh21.9 billion is allotted to social development programmes or 31.1 percent.

Dh4.6 billion is allocated to social benefits or 6.5 percent of the total, and Dh7.8 billion is allocated to other federal expenses, accounting for 11.1 percent.

Space Ambitions

The Emirati Space sector is the largest in the region in terms of size, diversity and foreign direct investment, FDI. It is energetic, active, organised and has clear plans for future programmes, and includes a legislative and regulatory system that makes it one of the country’s fastest-growing sectors.

The UAE currently owns and operates eight major communication and space surveillance satellites, as well as two research satellites, Naif-1 and MySat-1. It also plans to launch another eight research satellites before 2021, including the Hope Probe and Ain Al Saqr Surveillance Satellite.

The country’s investment in space amounts to Dh22 billion, with a nine percent annual growth rate, and it also has the first Arab space agency and the first project in the Arab and Islamic world to explore Mars, the Hope Probe. The UAE is home to satellite operators Yah-Sat, Thuraya and the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre.

Yah-Sat is one of the top 10 satellite companies in the world in terms of income. In 2018, it launched the third satellite to cover South America, and it plans to launch its fourth satellite.

The UAE has four research centres, the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Centre, the Sharjah Centre for Astronomy & Space Sciences, the National Space Science and Technology Centre at UAE University in Al Ain, Masdar Institute Research Laboratories, and the Yahsat Space Lab at Khalifa University.

Over 1,500 employees with an average age in their thirties work for 50 various companies in the national space sector, with 30 percent being Emiratis and 35 percent being women.

Education Support Fund

During the meeting, the UAE Cabinet approved the establishment of the Education Support Fund, which aims to encourage partnerships with the private sector and business sector, to advance the country’s education system.

The fund also aims to ensure the sustainability of educational development programmes will be managed by relevant national authorities and ministries and will be audited by the State Audit Institution, SAI.

Regarding organisational affairs, the cabinet approved the establishment of the Emirates Council for Climate Change and Environment to be chaired by the Minister of Climate Change and Environment with government agencies and representatives of the private sector being its members.

The cabinet also approved an amendment to the establishment of the “Permanent Human Rights Universal Periodic Review Report,” led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and with the membership of representatives of relevant federal and local authorities.

Concerning government reports, the cabinet approved several reports on the monitoring of government projects and initiatives, and reviewed the recommendations of the Federal National Council, FNC, on the policy of the Ministry of Energy and Industry.

It also approved the final account of the Emirates Development Bank, the Emirates Transport Company and the Emirates Post for 2018.

Regarding international relations, the cabinet approved and ratified several conventions, including the ‘framework agreement of the International Solar Alliance,’ the ‘Supplementary Agreement to the Headquarters Agreement between the UAE and the International Renewable Energy Agency, as well as two agreements with the governments of China and Hong Kong, and the government of Senegal related to promoting and protecting mutual investments.