The UAE’s Transport and Education Sectors

Introduction

The United Arab Emirates has experienced massive economic growth within the past two decades. The government has been closely working with other stakeholders to ensure that there is sustainable growth in all the sectors of the economy. According to Abeyratne (2013), this country is currently considered an economic powerhouse in the Middle East, especially following the emergence of Dubai as a trade centre in the region. When analysing developments in this country, it is necessary to single out specific industries or sectors to conduct objective research. The researcher was interested in understanding developments that have been experienced in the field of transport and education. To get a clear picture of how advanced this country is in the two sectors, it will be necessary to conduct a comparison with some of the countries that have registered impressive performance. This will make it possible to determine the country’s performance in the global context. In this study, the researcher will compare the recent developments and current state of the transport sector in the United Arab Emirates and that in Singapore. The researcher will also compare the education system in the United Arab Emirates and that of China.

The Economy of the United Arab Emirates

The economy of the United Arab Emirates has been growing concisely over the past few decades. When the country gained independence in 1971, the main source of income included fishing, pearl diving, and seafaring. However, the country discovered oil soon after independence and this completely transformed the economy. In the 1980s and 1990s, the United Arab Emirates experienced economic prosperity from its sale of oil in the international market. It became one of the major oil exporters in the Middle East. Under the leadership of Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan as the president and Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum as the vice-president, the country started diversifying its economy. The two leaders realised that the economy was over-relying on the exportation of oil and oil products.

The diversification was specifically necessary for Dubai because it was not as rich in oil reserves as other emirates in this country. The service industry was one of the best alternatives as the region was strategically located for international trade. Construction and tourism industry became other very important industries that could help boost the economy of the country and reduce the economy’s reliance on the oil industry. According to Walker (2010), although the oil industry still accounts for about 70% of the country’s GDP, there is a consistent growth in other sectors of the economy. For instance, the service industry accounts for about 45% of the GDP in Dubai. Manufacturing and tourism are also experiencing consistent growth. The transport sector and the education sector in the country have also experienced impressive growth over the past decade. The economy of the United Arab Emirates is larger than that of Singapore but smaller as compared to the Chinese economy.

Impact of 2008/2009 economic recession on the UAE’s economy

According to Benesh (2014), the United Arab Emirates is one of the countries that were worst hit by the 2008/2009 economic recession. The recession hit this country in several ways. The first industry to be affected was the tourism industry. The United States of America and Europe play an important role in the tourism sector in this country. Over 65% of tourist who comes to Dubai and other parts of the country come from these two regions. The 2008/2009 economic recession affected these two regions the most. This meant that the number of tourists from these two regions reduced as they struggled with the economic recession that hit their countries. This explains why Dubai was the most affected emirate in the country. Dubai is the centre of tourism in the country following the massive development of the infrastructure meant to meet the needs of international visitors. The effect of this recession lasted till 2010 in Dubai as the tourism industry struggled to gain its balance. The service industry, especially the healthcare and education sector was also affected. The resources meant for these two sectors had to be reduced as the country struggled with the recession. The economy had to rely on the oil sector that was also facing challenges because of the fluctuating international oil prices. The country was able to come out of this economic recession, but the impact had a ripple effect that was felt in several industries a couple of years after the end of the recession.

How the economy faired compared to that of Singapore and China during the recession

According to Benesh (2014), to determine the strength of a country’s economy, it may be necessary to do some comparisons. Comparing a country’s economic capacity with that of other countries helps determine its comparative performance. During the 2008/2009 global economic recession, some countries were more affected than others. In this study, the focus was to compare the two sectors of the United Arab Emirates’ economy with that of Singapore and China. For this reason, it will be necessary to compare the impact of the 2008/2009 global economic recession in these countries. According to Abeyratne (2013), Singapore was the first country in East Asia to slip into recession following the economic events in the United States of America. Several Singaporean companies and even individuals had invested heavily in American firms through the New York Stock Exchange. The Lehman Brothers were one of the companies that Singaporeans had heavily invested in because of its hyped impressive performance. The fall of this giant firm meant that many Singaporeans lost their investments at a time when they expected impressive growth.

The failure of other toxic investments in the United States also had a direct ripple effect in Singapore. Companies that had invested heavily in the American market had to take drastic measures to address the economic strain they were experiencing. Some companies started retrenching their employees, cutting wages, giving out compulsory leave or even reducing working hours to deal with the tough economic climate. This had a direct impact on the country’s economy. The loss experienced by individuals and companies in this country following the collapse of some of the United States’ companies forced the country to slide into economic recession. The effect of the recession was stronger in Singapore than in the United Arab Emirates. This was so because, in UAE, the economy was affected by the ripple effect of the recession that hit the United States and Europe. However, in Singapore, there was an actual loss of wealth by companies and individuals who had invested in the New York Stock Exchange. They felt the direct impact, which was followed by the ripple effect of the recession. China, on the other hand, was not much affected by the recession. At the time of recession, China was experiencing an economic boom. It had also reduced its reliance on the American markets. As Walker (2010) observes, by 2008, China had surpassed the United States as a trading partner in Africa and other emerging economies in Asia. When the United States and Europe were hit by the 2008/2009 economic recession, China turned its focus to these developing economies and its economy. Many American investors increased their foreign direct investment to China as a way of countering the recession. As they cut down their operations in other countries, they increased their investment in China because appeared to withstand the economic recession. This further strengthened the country’s economy.

The Transport Sector

According to Abeyratne (2013), the transport sector plays a pivotal role in a country’s economy. The economy of any given country heavily relies on transport infrastructure. The ease with which people and goods move from one part of the country to the other influences the decisions of the investors. Investors prefer regions where their products can move easily to avoid cases where their products rot even before getting to the market. They also prefer investing in regions where they can move easily through various means of transport. All other sectors of the economy rely on the transport sector directly. At this stage, the researcher will analyse the transport sector in the United Arab Emirates and compare it with that in Singapore.

The transport sector in the United Arab Emirates

The government of the United Arab Emirates has been focused on diversifying its economy as a way of reducing over-reliance on the oil sector. The country is strategically located as a trade hub due to its proximity to Europe and Africa. The Dubai Vision 2015, Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 and UAE’S Vision 2021 are some of the strategic plans that have been put in place to foster infrastructural development in the transport sector. To understand the developments that have taken place in the transport sector, the researcher will look at the regulatory bodies at the federal and state levels to understand their mandate and what they have been doing to boost infrastructural developments.

Federal Regulatory Environment

At the federal level, four main regulatory agencies are responsible for various departments within the transport sector. These agencies are responsible for infrastructural development and regulations of all activities that take place within the transport sector. They include the following.

Public Works Ministry established in 1972 and assigned some responsibilities in the transport sector. This department finances the projects, collects revenues from these projects, and develops policies that are needed to regulate these two subsectors. According to Abeyratne (2013), the ports form a pivotal unit within the transport sector. For instance, the city of Dubai has become a centre of trade in the global market. The city receives finished products from countries such as China and Japan and sells them to India and Africa. This is made possible by the technologically-advanced ports that the government has developed. Internal trade largely relies on road transport, especially in the regions that are not covered by rail transport. The ministry is mainly concerned with the infrastructural development of these two sub-sectors.

National Transport Authority is an entity that was established in 2006 to help in the regulation of federal transportation. The federal government realised that when each emirate is allowed to form its policies in the transport sector, some of their regulations conflicted. This made it necessary to have a federal unit that would be responsible for the development of federal laws that would apply universally. The NTA was given this mandate. The body did not have the mandate to be involved in the infrastructural development in the transport sector. All its policies are involving the normal operations of these ports. In case it is the body comes up with a policy that requires infrastructural development, then the policy is channelled to the Ministry of Public Works for appropriate action.

The third body at the federal level is the General Civil Aviation Authority that was established through a decree of the federal cabinet in 1996. This body works very closely with the Ministry of Public works to ensure that the airports are developed to the expected standards. Many tourists come from the United States and Europe. The authority has made an effort, with the help of the Ministry of Public Works, to ensure that the major airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi can support direct flights from the United States and Europe.

The fourth federal authority under this category is the Critical National Infrastructure Authority that was created in 2007 through a presidential decree. The government realised that it needed a body that will specifically be responsible for the security of the entire infrastructure in the transport sector. The country was facing threats from international terrorist and other aggressive neighbours. Headquartered in Abu Dhabi, this body is responsible for the protection of the country’s infrastructure from foreign threats, destruction, or sabotage. According to Walker (2010), this body works closely with the country’s military department. The head of this body is taken from the military, especially from the marine or air force unit. The current head of the unit is Brigadier Faris Al Mazrouei who was taken from the air force.

State Regulatory Environment

In the United Arab Emirates, each state has several bodies responsible for policy formulation and developments in the transport sector. It will be necessary to look at how each of the seven states manages the transport sector of the economy.

Abu Dhabi

In Abu Dhabi, the Department of Transport works closely with the government of Abu Dhabi to ensure that Abu Dhabi Vision 2030 is achieved. The body has been very active in three main sectors which include aviation, maritime, and land transportation. In the aviation sector, the Department of Transport has established a body known as Abu Dhabi Airport Company to coordinate all the activities in the aviation sector. This company is responsible for strategic operations and planning, monitoring of the performance and development of the aviation sector within the state. It works closely with the federal government bodies to ensure that the state policies are in line with the federal policies. The company is responsible for the management of all the five airports within this emirate.

In the maritime sector, the Department of Transport has established Abu Dhabi Port Company to oversee all the operations in maritime transport. The company is responsible for formulation and coordination of state policies and regulations to maintain a secure, safe, economically sustainable, and environmentally friendly maritime policies to help in the development of the state’s transport network. The body also has the mandate to oversee all the infrastructural development in the maritime sector. Inland transport, the Department of Transport is directly responsible for the development of regulatory policies, provision of a license to the public transport players, and registration of public transport vehicles in Abu Dhabi.

Dubai

In Dubai, the RTA (Roads and Transportation Authority) plays a crucial role in policy formulation and implementation in the transport sector. Established in 2005, this body had a specific mandate of modernising the transport sector in this emirate. At the time of its establishment, Dubai had become a major business hub in the larger Asia, and tourism had become a major source of income within the economy. For this reason, it was necessary to develop a modern transport that would not only meet the increased capacity of people within the emirate but also offer the users something unique every time they used water or land transport. The government of Dubai also realised that it was necessary to have a system that will connect this emirate to other six emirates and also other neighbouring countries such as Saudi Arabia.

The Dubai Maritime City Authority that was founded in 2007 is responsible for the regulation of all the maritime activities, management of business needs and challenges, for the global and local maritime audiences (Benesh, 2014). The body has the mandate to license maritime vessels, maritime management, chartering of vessels, designing and building of vessels, maritime research, shipment organisation, training and workshops, maritime exhibition and conferences, maritime specialised exhibition, and maritime tourism (Abeyratne, 2013). This body works closely with the Dubai Ports Authority to integrate and enhance the performance of port terminals in the country. The Dubai Civil Aviation Authority is the body that is mandated to govern the aviation sector in Dubai. The body has been actively involved in various projects meant to expand the airport to sustain the increasing number of flights into and out of the country. To have direct flights into major international airports in Europe and the United States, the DCAA has been working tirelessly to increase the terminals and the size of its major airports. The body is also responsible for the development of policies that would enhance the security of the airports to deter issues such as terrorists’ attack.

Other Emirates

It is important to note that the other five emirates (Ajman, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah, and Umm Al Quwain) also have their state-level agencies responsible for the management of maritime, aviation, and land transportation sectors. Each of these agencies operates very closely with the federal agencies to ensure that the transport system is operational and that all the policies developed both at the state and federal levels are realistic and sustainable to create an ultra-modern transport system in the entire country. The road, rail, air, and water transport are closely integrated to ease the movement from one emirate to the other and other regions across the world.

The transport sector in Singapore

Singapore is one of the countries in East Asia that have experienced massive economic development over the past two decades. To sustain the growing economy and expanding population in the country, it has been necessary to expand the transport system. To analyse the transport sector in this country, the researcher will look at the land, air, and water transport system in the country. Land transport can be classified further into two major categories which are road and rail transport. According to Ang (2014), the government of Singapore has invested a lot in the development of road transport, which forms the major transport system for the Singaporeans. According to Ang (2014), Land Transport Authority was established and given the mandate to plan, construct, maintain and conduct other related activities in the road network within the country. This body developed Expressways to link the city centre to all satellite towns through the shortest routes possible.

These transport arteries were meant to make the movement from one city to the other very simple to the commuters and to reduce traffic jam that had become common following the expansion of the major cities. There are about ten expressways and parkways that are currently inactive use within the country. The policy that led to the development of expressways resulted from the desire to decongest the central district of the city. The expressways were meant to encourage settlement in satellite towns by making it easy for the people to commute to the city centre through public or private means. The Singapore transport sector has been described by Ang (2014) as being a duopoly. The sector, especially road transport is monopolised by only two companies. The two companies dominating the public road transport are SMRT Trains and SBS Transit. These two companies have buses plying various routes within Singapore. They also operate from Singapore to Malaysia. Other minor bus companies also exist in the country. Public Transport Council, an independent body that was established by the Land Transport Authority, is responsible for regulations of fare and service standards in the public transport sector. The two dominant players- SMRT Trains and SBS Transit have also developed their own body known as TransitLink to help harmonise the fares charged at different routes and the quality of services offered in public transport.

Rail transport also forms another major means of transport within this country. The government initiated Mass Rapid Transit- a standard gauge railway system- which is a rail network of about 154 kilometres with 104 stations. The Light Rail Transit System was constructed in 1999 and is about 11 kilometres with 14 stations. The railway system is also dominated by SMRT Trains and SBS Transit. Through intergovernmental negotiations, currently, there is a railway line (the International Railway Line) that links Singapore to Malaysia.

Water transport is another important means of transport in Singapore, especially among the traders who deal with imports and exports. Sea transport in Singapore is not majorly used for domestic transport, but international trade. According to Ieda (2012), the Port of Singapore is considered one of the world’s busiest ports. In 2004, the port handled 1.04 billion gross tons, making it the busiest port in the world in shipping tonnage. In the same year, it handled 21.3 million containers (twenty-foot units), making it the second busiest port in terms of handling containerised traffic. The scholar also notes that the Port of Singapore is considered the best seaport in the entire Asian continent, a fact that explains why it is always busy throughout the year.

According to Ieda (2012), Air transport in this country is under the management of the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore, a board that was instituted by the Ministry Transport. The body is responsible for enacting of laws and regulations that govern the aviation sector. Singapore Changi Airport is the largest international airport in the country. The port serves over 185 cities across the world. It can handle 64 million passengers annually.

Comparison of the Transport Sector in the United Arab Emirates and That in Singapore

The critical analysis of the transport sector in the two countries brings out several similarities and dissimilarities. In this section, the researcher will summarise these similarities and differences in the transport sector in the two countries.

Similarities between the UAE’s Transport Sector and that of Singapore

The Transport sector In the United Arab Emirates and that of Singapore are similar in several ways. In the two countries, road and rail are the main means of transport for residents. Air transport is majorly used by those who wish to travel to other countries while water transport is majorly used by the traders. In the United Arab Emirates, it was apparent that the transport sector is managed by the relevant ministries. The same is the case when it comes to Singapore. In both countries, the relevant ministries have instituted independent bodies to run various sectors of transport. In the United Arab Emirates, National Transport Authority and General Civil Aviation Authority are some of the statutory bodies responsible for the management of various sectors of the economy. The equivalents of such bodies in Singapore include the Land Transport Authority and Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore. From the analysis, it is clear that the road and rail transport in the two countries is controlled by a few dominant players. In the United Arab Emirates, especially in Dubai, Roads and Transportation Authority has the monopoly on road and rail transport. Although other players exist, their role in these two transport sub-sectors is negligible. The same is the case in Singapore. SMRT Trains and SBS Transit and the dominant players in Singaporean road and rail transport. The ports in the two countries are strategically located for international trade. They have naturally deep harbours that have been modernised to meet the changing needs in the market. The analysis also shows that the two countries have done very little to ensure that the transport sector is competitive. This industry is closely under the control of the government in both countries.

Dissimilarities between the UAE’s Transport Sector and that of Singapore

The transport sector in the United Arab Emirates and that in Singapore have some differences. One such difference is the level of management. In the United Arab Emirates, there are two levels of management of the transport sector which are the federal level and the state level. On the other hand, the Singaporean transport sector is only managed at the national level. The UAE is made up of several islands. For this reason, water transport is unavoidable domestically, especially when moving from one emirate to the other. Even in cities such as Dubai, water transport is very advanced and popular among the residents. However, things are different when it comes to domestic travels in Singapore. Water transport among the Singaporean residents is uncommon. Most people use road or rail transport for domestic travels. Water transport is majorly used for international trade.

From the analysis, it is apparent that the development of the transport sector is seen as a way of diversifying the economy in the United Arab Emirates. The country has been struggling to diversify its economy as a way of reducing its reliance on the oil industry. Development of roads has been considered one of the ways of doing this. However, the development of the transport sector in Singapore is part of a wider effort to develop the country’s infrastructure. In Singapore, there is a duopoly in the road and rail sectors which are dominated by SMRT Trains and SBS Transit. On the other hand, many of the states in UAE such as Dubai have a monopoly in these sectors. In Dubai, Roads and Transportation Authority dominates this sector. In Singapore, the regulator and the service providers are different entities. For instance, the Public Transport Council is the regulator in road and rail transport, while SMRT Trains and SBS Transit are the service providers. Contrary to this, the regulator and service provider is one entity in the UAE. Roads and Transportation Authority is responsible for formulating and implementing the policies. At the same time, it offers road and rail services to the residents.

The Education Sector: Scholarships

Education is one of the fundamental pillars of a country’s economy. To have a quality workforce, it is important to ensure that the education system is properly functional. Many countries have made an effort to support the education system through various strategies. Besides supporting the infrastructural developments, many governments and other institutions consider offering scholarships to ensure that needy by meticulous students can go through their higher education without worrying about the associated costs. In this section, the researcher will compare the scholarships offered in the United Arab Emirates and that offered in China.

Scholarships in the United Arabs Emirates

The education sector in the United Arab Emirates is at the take-off stage. The federal government, the state government, and institutions have come out to support the education sector in various ways. The scholarship is one of the ways through which these stakeholders support education in this country. According to Keeves (2013), there has been a massive increase in the number of scholarships offered in the UAE in various programmes. These scholarships are specifically meant for the Emiratis, but international students can also benefit from them. The first scholarship programme in this country was offered to students who attained a specified academic grade at their 12th grade final exams. Under this scholarship, the beneficiaries would be taken to the local universities for their undergraduate programme. The scholarship was also offered to the postgraduate students who were interested in pursuing further education, especially in fields such as sciences. This scholarship still exists, but the government has modified it to meet the diverse needs of students.

The late President Sheikh Zayed Al Nahyan was concerned about the number of students who proceeded to institutions of higher learning after completing their 12th-grade exams. He, therefore, introduced the Presidential Scholarship Programme in 1998 through a royal decree to offer a special scholarship to students who performed exemption ally well in their 12th-grade exams. This special scholarship program was not restricted to the local universities. Keeves (2013) notes that it allowed the learners to choose international universities of their choice, especially in the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, or in New Zealand. This scholarship comes with a special package meant to motivate the beneficiaries. All the undergraduate students under the Presidential Scholarship programme receive a monthly allowance of $ 3000. This translates to $ 3600 annually. All the graduate students under this programme receive a monthly allowance of 3500 to help them in addressing their basic needs while they are at school. In addition to this attractive monthly allowance, these students are offered $ 2000 in every academic year as a travel allowance that is always due during the summer holidays. These students are also entitled to various other benefits under this scholarship program.

According to Keeves (2013), other than government scholarships, individual institutions have come out to offer scholarship programs to needy students who are not lucky enough to get sponsored by the government. ADNOC scholarship program is offered by the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company to the needy Emirati and international students who are interested in taking courses in the local universities. Other popular scholarship programmes include Telecommunication Regulatory Authority Scholarship, Dubal Scholarship Program, and the UAE Nuclear Energy Scholarship Programme. These are scholarships offered by companies interested in enhancing education in specific areas such as nuclear energy, engineering among others. Individual universities have also come up with special scholarship programmes for their students. Almost all the universities in this country offer some form of a scholarship to their students under various programmes.

One of the universities that offer attractive packages in terms of scholarships is Amity University in Dubai. The university that was established in 2011 has about 750 students, all of whom are under some form of scholarships. The university gives away about Dh 38 million worth of scholarships every year in all its campuses within the country. Students who scored high marks in their 12th-grade exams get 100% scholarships. Those who maintain an average CGPA of 9 points at the end of the academic year qualify for 100% scholarships. Other students get scholarships ranging from 5%-25%. Many other institutions of higher learning in this country also offer similar packages to the local and international students pursuing higher education (Keeves, 2013).

Scholarships sector in China

China offers several scholarship programs for its undergraduate and postgraduate students under various programmes. According to Coughlan (2013), China has been under pressure to ensure that its massive human resource has the right training to undertake various duties in the country. China is home to about one-third of the world’s total population. Ensuring that all the students who complete their high schools proceed to institutions of higher learning is a big challenge. The government established the China Scholarship Council to manage scholarship programmes to the bright needy students. The institution started by offering scholarships to local students. However, there has been pressure for the institution to support students, who go to study abroad, especially those who are pursuing post-graduate degrees. In 2012, the council supported 16,000 Chinese students who went to study abroad. In 2013, this number increased by 2000. The council is currently supporting a total of 24,000 students who are undertaking their graduate degrees at various universities outside China. The council has also started a similar programme for international students who wish to study in China. Individual universities offer scholarships to local and international students under various programmes.

Comparison of the scholarships in the United Arab Emirates and that in China

Similarities

The analysis above demonstrates that there are striking similarities between the scholarship offered in the United Arab Emirates and that offered in China. In both cases, the governments have instituted special bodies to be in charge of the scholarships. Both countries offer scholarships to local and international students. It is also evident that the two governments are keen on offering a scholarship to students who wish to study abroad, especially at the post-graduate level. It is clear that in both countries, scholarships are also available for international students who come to study at the local institutions of higher learning. It is also apparent that the scholarships target brilliant students from needy families.

Dissimilarities

It is important to note that a few dissimilarities come out like scholarships offered in the two countries. In the United Arab Emirates, students who get the Presidential Scholarship Program to study abroad get as much as $ 3500 in monthly allowance and $ 2000 annual travel allowance. These lavish benefits are not available in China. The Chinese government has a requirement that all foreign students who get Chinese scholarship must learn Chinese language for at least two years. This mandatory requirement does not exist in the UAE’s scholarships.

Conclusion

The United Arab Emirates has made impressive steps towards developing its economy. The government has given a special focus on education and transport sectors. The comparative analysis between the transport sector in this country and that of Singapore demonstrates that UAE is on the right path towards having a modern road, rail, and maritime infrastructure to support the increasing transport needs. In the education sector, the government and individual institutions have embarked on an aggressive programme to increase the number of students who go through institutions of higher learning. Although the Chinese education system is more advanced, the scholarship programmes in both countries have a lot in common.

References

Abeyratne, R. I. H. (2013). Regulation of air transport: The slumbering sentinels. New York: Cengage

Ang, B. W. (2014). ASEAN energy demand: Trends and structural change. Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies.

Benesh, G. C. (2014). United Arab Emirates: A survival guide to customs and etiquette. Tarrytown, NY: Marshall Cavendish Editions.

Coughlan, C.-M. J. (2013). The study of China in universities: A comparative case study of Australia and the United Kingdom. Amherst, NY: Cambria Press.

Ieda, H. (2012). Sustainable urban transport in an Asian context. Tokyo: Springer.

Keeves, J. P. (2013). Excellence in scholarship: Transcending transdisciplinarity in teacher education. New York: Cengage.

Walker, J. (2010). Oman, UAE & Arabian Peninsula. Footscray, Vic: Lonely Planet.