DUBAI, (Reuters) – Abu Dhabi has earmarked $1.9 billion from its 2011 budget for housing loans, the state news agency WAM said, after Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahayan called for measures to shore up “social stability”.
The United Arab Emirates, of which Abu Dhabi is a member, has so far been spared Arab citizen revolts that swept nearby Bahrain, Oman and Yemen. Abu Dhabi has been watched especially closely as it sits on some 10 percent of global oil reserves.
Abu Dhabi’s local government planned to spend 207.5 billion dirhams ($56.5 billion) last year, around 74 percent of overall fiscal spending in the UAE. Its 2011 budget is not published.
According to WAM, Nahayan said on Monday that the government sought to provide “adequate and modern housing” for UAE citizens living in Abu Dhabi “to help achieve social stability”.
The new housing loans, as well as funding for infrastructure projects, will benefit Emiratis who constitute around 22 percent of Abu Dhabi’s 1.8 million population, according to 2009 data. The rest are generally foreign expatriates and migrant workers.
Abu Dhabi has been investing billions of dollars in local industry, infrastructure and tourism to diversify its oil-based economy, attracting thousands into the labour force and pushing up demand for housing.
Its urban planning council has awarded contracts worth 21 billion dirhams in April to meet the shortage.
Separately, the UAE has earmarked $1.6 billion for infrastructure in the less developed north, raised military pensions by 70 percent and introduced bread and rice subsidies, among other measures.
Scores of major projects in the UAE, the world’s No. 3 oil exporter, had slowed when developers suffered losses in the 2008 global financial crisis and Dubai’s 2009 debt woes put an end to a six-year construction boom.