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Dubai’s local government adjusts
priorities following the global crisis

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

18 April 2010: Following the international downturn in 2008 and the subsequent difficulties at Dubai World, the Dubai government and the municipality under its Director General Hussain Nasser Lootah are adjusting their ambitious programmes and slow the hitherto rapid pace of development. The municipality is reviewing its approach whilst aiming to maintain as much activity as possible.

Until 2012 the priorities of the Director General include rationalising expenditures, proposing new revenue trails, deferring pay increases and implementing a revised marketing approach for projects and properties which will generate cash returns for the municipality.

The approach to the current circumstances, which is being implemented by Hussain Nasser Lootah includes rationalisations or cancellation of planned phases of some of the development projects and a search for lower cost alternatives. This work takes place in the context of efforts by the government to ensure banks continue to fund activity in both private and public sector enterprise. 

However, the municipality has, so far, followed the same policy as the Government in excluding compulsory redundancies from its responses to the crisis.

The structural relationship between the Dubai government and the municipality of Dubai is complex but allows Lootah and his senior colleagues considerable flexibility over priorities within the approved frameworks. The municipality is also responsible for the delivery of a range of services to citizens.

By the end of 2011 the municipal strategic plan will be updated to address the period until 2015. The medium term vision of the municipality is to give a high emphasis to improvements in the environment and quality of life of citizens in the city. For example, by 2015 the municipality intends to complete the major sewage treatment plant at Jebel Ali which is budgeted at AED 560 million.

Dubai municipality intends to launch a green roofs programme and to further extend parks and gardens provision across its territory. It is already committed to increase planted areas in the urban parts of the city to 3.15% by the end of 2011.

Hussain Nasser Lootah has been the Director General of the municipality of Dubai since January 2009. He had served as Acting Director since 2006 and previously as Deputy Director.

Lootah graduated in civil engineering in the USA before returning to UAE to take up a post in the Federal Ministry for Electricity and Water.

In 1985 he moved to the municipality where he has held several senior positions including that of Assistant Director General of Environment and Public Health and Assistant Director General for Planning and Building Affairs.

The municipality employs 12,000 people, which makes it one of the largest employers in the gulf region.

The Director General manages the 34 department civic body. In its focus on maintaining as much of the development programme as possible in the short term the municipality has done all it can to retain expatriate skilled workers whilst being unable to prevent private companies from making redundancies. Its objective is to retain the skills base within the city in readiness for the global economic upturn.
 In his earlier posts the Director General was instrumental in implementing the e-government programme which is likely to be completed by 2012 and in strategic plan making. He chaired the UAE Engineers Society form 1992-1996 after playing a leading role in establishing it.

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