Al Tayer showcases RTAs experience, role of infrastructure in prompting comprehensive development at Jeddah Economic Forum



The Forum was attended by His Royal Highness Prince Sultan bin Salman bin Abdulaziz, Chairman of the General Authority of Tourism and Antiquities; Sheikh Saleh bin Abdullah Kamel, Chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Jeddah, and a number of dignitaries.

HE Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman and Executive Director of the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), delivered a keynote address at the opening session of the Conference in front of more than 2,000 participants hailing from the Middle East, Asia and Europe. Al Tayer reviewed the role of infrastructure in promoting the economic development, and highlighted RTA’s experience in developing an infrastructure of roads and mass transit systems.

Al Tayer said: “There are many factors that could affect the economic development in any country, such regulations, legislation, available services, political stability and the strategic location. Although these factors are crucial, infrastructure commands a special importance as it represents the mainstay & the key driver of the economic development. Dubai Government’s policy is based on long-term investment in developing infrastructure and maintaining quality, where the Dubai government spent more than AED 280 billion on major infrastructure projects across the Emirate.”

“The Government policies have resulted in a steady and continuous economic growth in the Emirate of Dubai, where the emirate’s gross domestic product leapfrogged from 240 billion dirhams in 2006 to AED 312 billion in 2012, with an average annual increase of about 5%, thanks to the diverse economic sectors, such as free zones, besides creating events encouraging  small And Medium Enterprises as they play a major role in driving the economy, and as a result of this drive, 80% of global companies are based in Dubai,” explained Al Tayer.

Return on Investment

HE Mattar Al Tayer, added, “Road and transport projects represent the key infrastructure elements that support and propel the economic development. Studies have shown that the rate of return on investment of road & transport projects ranges between 1.2 and 2, in addition to the indirect benefits that may quadruple direct benefits; which means that every single dirham spent on infrastructure earns a total return of 6 dirham, including direct & indirect benefits.

“The Government of Dubai focuses on continuous development of roads & transport infrastructure, besides maintaining their quality. This approach contributed to ranking the UAE’s road network as the world-best according to the World Economic Forum Report 2013, and boosted the odds of Dubai to host international events such as the IMF and World Bank meetings, UITP Congress and Mobility & City Transport Exhibition, and the World Expo 2020. The roads and transport systems development have also contributed to saving time and fuel, and making savings in as much as AED 72 billion during the past seven years. The Dubai government is keen on utilizing the best technology in place after customizing it to fit Dubai conditions, such as the Dubai Metro, the world’s longest fully automated driverless metro line, which boasts of cutting-edge technology. These technologies have helped to achieve high reliability of service exceeding 99.9%. Stations and trains have been designed at five-star level to encourage residents to use the Dubai Metro, which has lifted since launched on 09/09/09 about 400 million passengers, and contributed to appreciating the value of the land around the metro stations by 30%.

“The Dubai Tram, which will be up and running next November, is one the world’s first tramway projects powered by a ground-based electric supply system extending along the track, thus obviating the need for catenary cables. It is also the first of its kind in the Middle East with no other peers except in France and Tokyo, Japan. The Tram diamond-like coaches have been customized specifically to Dubai, with high quality stations and excellent services including Wi-Fi and Gold Cabins for women and children. The tram is expected to lift about 6 million passengers in 2015,” elaborated Al Tayer.

Al Tayer noted: “The integration between the mass transit systems is one of the defining features of the infrastructure, roads and transport in the emirate of Dubai. We strive to achieve the integration between transport systems and economic urban development plans in the emirate. We also seek to achieve the integration between the various transport modes and strike an acceptable balance between the use of private vehicles and the use of mass transit means. The RTA has made great strides in this aspect where the mass transit system witnessed a dramatic improvement thanks to the new transport means introduced, including metro, tram, modern marine transport such as Dubai Ferry, Water Bus and Water Taxi. These efforts resulted in increasing e ridership from 163 million passengers in 2006 to 446 million passengers in 2013.”

HE Mattar Al Tayer, had also touched on the strategy launched by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, aimed at turning Dubai into the world’s smartest city within three years.  This strategy is based on six aspects, and three main ideas, namely the integration, communication and cooperation. The strategy aims to provide seamless & hassle-free service to the public via smartphones in order to realize the objective of “Bringing happiness to People,” where Dubai government is no longer settling for customer satisfaction, but strives to ensure superior quality of life and bringing happiness to people.

“The Government seeks to bring happiness to people by adopting clear-cut plans & procedures such as introducing hassle-free public services via smartphones. Several programs have been rolled out to achieve this objective including Hamdan Bin Mohammed Smart Government Program, Dubai Smart Government Services Development Model, and Stars Program for Rating Service Centers. The Government also aims to develop the infrastructure, including roads and mass transit system, develop community and improve the quality of life,” continued Al Tayer.

Smart Mobility

Al Tayer said: “The provision of smart transportation is one of the six key thrusts of the Smart City Strategy. To achieve this goal, the RTA has set a well-defined roadmap that encompasses the provision of a host of smart systems and applications of roads and transportation such as the smart parking to easily identify unoccupied parking slots and streamline the use of parking. It also includes the smart taxi which is fitted with interactive screens enabling riders to review flight information details, and process the check-in procedures, in addition to comprehensive real time accurate information about road traffic, setting up a unified control center for roads and mass transit systems and several systems and technological applications currently in use in Dubai. Examples of these include the payment of parking via mobile phones (mParking) where more than 40 million e-tickets have been issued since the launch of service back in 2009, and the toll gate system (Salik) which is capable of remotely reading the vehicle’s details even if driving at 300 km/h speed. In the field of public transport, we have several technological systems and applications highlighted by the Unified Fare System (NOL); which is one of the highly advanced systems worldwide enabling the payment of all public transport fares in an easy manner, and the smart buses fitted with screen displaying real time information and directions through which users can also access the Journey Planner program (Wojhati).

“As we have a great belief in the huge role of youth in providing sustainability, the RTA launched a host of initiatives aimed at educating and motivating the youth to use public transport systems such as patronizing Youth Group for Public Transport initiative launched by the UITP, Dubai Youth for Public Transport at the level of Dubai Emirate targeting youth with the aim of encouraging them to use public transport systems, besides improving the profile of Dubai youth amongst cosmopolitan cities in the field of infrastructure and public transport.

Expo 2020

In his speech, Al Tayer spoke about the Dubai winning the right to host the World Expo 2020; which will be held for the first time in the MENA region and South Asia under the theme: Connecting Minds, Creating the Future. “The theme fits well with the vision of the Dubai Government in achieving communication between various cultures and civilizations. The event comprises three main pillars: Mobility, Sustainability, and Opportunities, and these pillars fit well with the global drive towards sustainable development. The smart mobility represents one of the key elements of the Expo strategy. The RTA is currently working on a comprehensive roads and transport plan to serve the Expo through which smart and environment-friendly solutions will be provided where all buses and taxicabs dedicated for the service of the Expo will be eco-friendly. About 25 million visitors are expected to flock to the Expo venue over six months, and the event is set to provide 270 thousand job opportunities.”

Al Tayer also touched on Expo Life initiative; which is a 7-year program aimed at stepping up cooperation & innovation besides translating the theme of the Expo into opportunities and partnerships of benefit to all stakeholders. Expo Life program envisages the setting up of Expo Partnership Fund amounting to 100 million Euros in terms of grants, loans and prizes to be specified based on the nature and category of projects & initiatives.

He also reviewed future challenges on the march of turning Dubai into the smartest city of the world highlighted by the rapid urban & economic development, limited role of mass transit systems in the movement of residents, and the need to cater to the needs of a wide and diverse chunk of customers in Dubai who belong to more than 200 nationalities. “The government has developed comprehensive plans for coping with these challenges including continuing with the development of roads and transport infrastructure, and encouraging mass transport. Thus our future plans encompass the construction of 335 km-long rail and tram ways, and boosting the partnership with the private sector to provide funding, and achieve efficiency as well as sustainability,” he added.

Concluding his speech, Al Tayer stressed the importance of investment in the infrastructure, considering it the key driver of the economic development, and benefiting the best international practices upon studying and designing road and transport projects and systems i.e. to start from where others have reached. “Much attention has to be paid to national cadres to qualify and groom them as they are considered the key factors underlining the success of government departments, and achieving the integration between the transportation plans and the urban & economic plans. Here the appropriate route of rail and tram ways has to be set along with the suitable locations of stations in a way integrating with the land uses plans, in addition to the integration of the transportation plans, the physical & informational integration between mass transit systems in terms of accessibility to stations, boosting the effective public-private partnership for providing finance, sharing expertise, raising the operational efficiency and maintaining the infrastructure, and managing assets & properties in a highly efficient and sustainable manner.”

The keynote speech delivered by H.E. Mattar Al Tayer, Chairman of the Board and Executive Director of the RTA to the Conference was well received and commended by senior officials and participants in the event.

Objectives of the Conference

The Conference aims to generate around 15 million jobs in the Kingdom and other GCC countries through adopting economic policies capable of eliminating unemployment amongst youths.

Sessions of the Forum saw lively discussions about providing sustainable economic development, focusing of two specific sectors i.e. tourism on the one hand and transportation on the other, in addition to emphasis on the youth as a key focus group of the Forum. The sustainable economic development relies on two key aspects i.e. the demand; which is reflected in nurturing an environment conducive to practicing business & investment, and sourcing jobs for the private sector in a sustainable manner; besides encouraging the entrepreneurship, supporting Small and Medium Enterprises and creating funding opportunities. The other aspect is the supply; which can be addressed by constructing an infrastructure for human resources capable of providing sufficient numbers of suitable job seekers who have the appropriate skills and attitudes at the proper geographical locations in order to cater to the needs of business owners in the private sector besides fostering and encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit & creativity amongst business young male and female leaders.

The Conference focused on the first day on the factors empowering the provision of jobs from the demand perspective, and the second & third days focused on empowering the human resources from the supply point of view. Sessions covered an array of issues highlighted by the need to reform the work environment, rejuvenate the links between investors and the business community, encouraging entrepreneurs, probing the views of youth about work, developing and maintaining key skills, and supporting youth business leaders. More info