‘The day we’ll export the last oil barrel, we’ll celebrate!’

01.22.16

‘The day we’ll export the last oil barrel, we’ll celebrate!’

01.22.16
Tim Reckmann

With or without the boom of Iran’s oil exports after the removal of the sanctions, we may need to change out mind-set about petro-dollar states which may soon convert into economies based on renewable energies. Sustainable growth will soon result from non-oil sectors. No more myths of rich Arabs idling on goldish things. Arab science and technology are gradually taking over.

Obviously, not everywhere across the Arab world, but, definitely, renewable energy, advanced technologies and smart operational solutions have become everyday life in the United Arab Emirates.

10 years ago, the UAE, the 6th biggest oil producer, 2nd among OPEC countries, and 4th oil exporter with 15 percent of the total OPEC production started drastic changes in policies and practices to cut dependency on oil. Thinking of the future: “Oil will be over after two generations. We must find other sectors to keep our glamour running,” with wisdom and vision, they started cultivating the tourism sector, the renewable energy sector, transportation, science and technology.

I am in Abu Dhabi, interviewing Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi, the Minister for Foreign Trade, and His Excellency Suhail Al Mazroui, the UAE minister of energy.

Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi is a small, strong lady in her 50s. Shiny eyes, perfect complexion, a charismatic conversational style, enthusiasm. No trace of what we call stress in our Western world. In the 2014 ranking of the strongest women in the Arab world, she ranked number one. Learning about her projects and her trips around the world, I was shocked: too many, too much, perfect time management, extremely efficient. With such people, you understand why the country is going so well. It’s not just oil the secret, it’s the people.

“When I was the minister of economy, back in 2004,” said Al Qasimi, “we all had big plans that looked hard-to-fulfil dreams. They have come true. Today we have the biggest airport in the world, Dubai, the biggest malls in Abu Dhabi, one of the biggest aluminum companies in Jebel Ali, MASDAR and the solar energy…We’ve managed excellence in many fields.”

I believe her, I can see with my own eyes around me everywhere in the UAE!

A quick glance at the UAE economic sectors, as a result of diversification, reveals that indeed, non-oil sectors now account for 69 percent of the GDP.

Pictured: Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi. (UAE Interact)

The UAE has gone so far in advanced technologies that they set up their own Space Agency in 2013 and in 2014 they organized the 5th Global Space and Satellite Forum in Dubai, gathering space experts and astronauts from around the world. The Emirati female researchers presented papers on the 1st Emirati mission to planet Mars.

“The day we’ll export our last oil barrel, we won’t be sad, we’ll celebrate,” says Al Qasimi.

So, their dream is to divorce from oil. Revisit your thinking about petro-dollar countries.

While looking at Lubna Khalid Al Qasimi and Suhail Al Mazroui, I understand that civilization does not grow directly from oil, but it emerges, step by step, from offices full of vision, wisdom and dedication.

Given the declining price of the oil, Al Mazrouei says the oil price is established by OPEC, not Arab countries.

Al Mazroui confirms that innovation, rationalization and diversification are the philosophy of the UAE: “By 2021, we’ll invest 300 billion AED (78 billion Euro) for innovation. We want the UAE to become an innovating country, no longer importer, but producer of UAE brands. The UAE will liberalize the oil prices because it will change the consumers’ mentality, and encourage saving. We have also launched initiatives to encourage water saving! We are looking for public transportation alternatives, to cut the carbon foot print and we re-invest in non-oil sectors to reduce oil dependency. We’ll build a $1.8 billion project with Russia in nuclear energy, and solar, by 2021, we are hoping to produce 1,000 MWatt, at least 5 percent will be solar energy. The price is 5.8 cents/kwatt h which makes it viable, we won’t subsidize, like in Europe…Solar energy will be the main source here in the Gulf.”

December 2015 and January 2016 were politically chaotic for the Arab world and for Europe as well.

However, a trip to the UAE restores one’s tranquility. It’s an extremely inspirational country. I returned home with peace in mind and hope for the better.

“Don’t look at the world in pessimistic terms. It will affect your performance,” was Al Mazroui’s conclusion.

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