The new year provides a good opportunity to put an end to wars and hatred around the world
The fireworks and laser shows are long over, the revelry remembered, and now we take the first tentative and plaintive steps on the journey into 2018. Our resolutions are new and hope too renewed that this, the New Year, will indeed be better for each of us, our family and friends, colleagues and co-workers.
These are changing times in Saudi Arabia, and the rate of change has accelerated in recent months. Under Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman the kingdom is stepping boldly into the future, determined to develop a thriving and prosperous economy that no longer focuses on petrochemicals and oil, but diversifies and develops in line with its Vision 2020.
The leadership and government of Saudi Arabia have never been deterred by challenges, and it is now embracing an agenda of change. In the coming months, the women of the kingdom will learn the freedom of driving, while new entertainment options will open up with the recent announcement that cinemas will once again be permitted, ending more than three decades of closed screens.
Fight against terror
Saudi Arabia, too, will continue to lead the international fight against terrorism in whatever form it takes. We here in the UAE will continue to play a proud and leading role with Saudi Arabia in restoring the legitimate government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi of Yemen, that was overthrown by Al Houthi militias.
Throughout, the UAE has been and remains fully proud of its role in the mission, which is acting on foot of United Nations Security Council resolutions. By continuing to arm, aid and train Al Houthi rebels, the regime in Iran, despite all its protestations that it is moderate, is thumbing its nose at the UN.
This new year will see the need for Iran and its growing influence from Yemen to Lebanon, Syria and in Iraq, to be challenged and curtailed. For too long in too many places — whether it be in Bahrain or Kuwait, or across the broader region — Iran has been the sponsor of sedition. That has to stop now.
Throughout, the UAE has always come to the aid and assistance of those most in need. In this coming year, the UAE will continue to be a willing and generous donor to people and places hit by strife and natural calamities.
As the calendar pages of history are turned to a new blank sheet, there is a growing sense that the celebrations of Expo 2020 are moving closer with each passing day. Now, the true work begins in earnest as Dubai and the UAE roll up their collective sleeves and get down to work to ensure the event’s success.
This new year will also see all levels of government continue to innovate and embrace the technologies of the future. Whether it be through more e-government initiatives, making government more accessible, more effective and more transparent, the opportunities brought by the digital and artificial intelligence revolution will be utilised and harnessed into our daily lives.
New regulatory environment
Our daily lives too will change with the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT). This new regulatory environment will test us in the coming days, but it is a necessary and long-overdue measure that will put our nation on a sound footing, moving forward in an organised and diversified manner.
During the year, all levels of government will be actively working towards making sure that this nation is as green as it can be, meeting the challenges to control our planet’s temperature, changing our living and working habits, and ensuring that we act locally and think globally in making this earth greener and cleaner.
In the region, Iran is facing its biggest challenge in a long time as protests erupted across the country with people demanding an end to clerical rule. As Tehran diverted its resources to further its ambitions in the region, the economy suffered: Unemployment rose, prices soared and corruption became rampant. And people seemed to have lost their patience. Iran has to change its course, or people will rewrite its history.
Across the border, there are challenges. Peace is tenuous in Syria, and as long as the regime of President Bashar Al Assad remains in power, a long-term lasting solution will be elusive. In Libya, too, there must be an inclusive and moderate government.
Our Palestinian brothers will not be forgotten in the months to come, and they have endured the wrong of seeing the occupied city of Jerusalem recognised as the capital of Israel by the United States. This erroneous and egregious decision needs to be righted this year.
Let us hope too that the regional governments of nations surrounding the Korean peninsula will double down on their efforts to bring an end to the nuclear crisis that festered in 2017. Meaningful, open and honest dialogue between all parties must replace the rhetoric and threats that have been uttered in anger.
Ushering in the New Year is always a time for optimism and resolve, hope and dreams that the tomorrows to come will be better than the days that have passed. Above all, we wish you a peaceful, healthy, happy and prosperous 2018.