Abu Dhabi’s new Executive Council has a very different feel to it. It has been trimmed down to 14 members from 18 and with four Al-Nahyan family members leaving the council, the body now looks more technocratic than ever before.
The changes mark an important step in the political evolution of Abu Dhabi. Its government has traditionally been dominated by the ruling Al-Nahyan family and while they remain firmly in control, it is now clear that they are prepared to allow trusted lieutenants from outside play a leading role in managing the daily affairs of the emirate.
It is only natural that this evolution is taking place. Despite a global recession, Abu Dhabi’s economy is growing strongly, but perhaps more importantly it is diversifying. In the past, when the economy was almost entirely dependent on oil, managing resources was relatively simple. Today, factors such as tourism, industry, transport and finance all have to be considered, and as the population grows, so does the provision of utilities and housing.
A bigger and broader economy will ultimately create more work for the council. It still has the final say on all major government contract awards in the emirate, and in 2010 there have been signs that the decision making process can be slow. For example, the contract awards for the strategic tunnel enhancement programme have taken over a year to be approved.
A leaner council, comprised of members with full-time roles in Abu Dhabi, should be able to meet more often and as a result make decisions more quickly. This can only be a good thing for companies working and looking to win work in Abu Dhabi.