Zayid's domestic policies have been designed to enhance the integration and centralization of the federation. Despite his efforts, the process of integration has been slow. In December 1973, the separate cabinet of Abu Dhabi was disbanded and several ministries were upgraded to federation level. By 1976, the Supreme Council granted the federal government control over defense, intelligence services, immigration, public safety, and border control. In 1977, the National Council (Majlis al-Ittihad al-Watani) was inaugurated.
The main obstacles to integration are the differing interests of the two larger components of the federation, Abu Dhabi and Dubai. While Abu Dhabi's main source of income is oil, Dubai relies on trade and reexport to Iran and other countries of the region. The two sources of economic activity have led to differing political outlooks. Additionally, there has been a long-standing rivalry between the dynasties of Abu Dhabi and Dubai. However slow it may be, considerable progress towards integration has taken place; because of Zayid's efforts, it is unlikely that this process will be reversed.
Zayid has been committed to the responsible use of the federation's rich natural resources, particularly its massive reserves of oil and gas. Since 1973, the government of Abu Dhabi, the emirate with the lion's share of reserves, has controlled the majority of oil reserves and maintains total ownership of associated and nonassociated gas. Through its Abu Dhabi Investment Authority, created by Zayid, the country now has financial reserves unofficially estimated at around US $200 billion.
Zayid continues to make good on his original campaign promise that the wealth of the nation should be used to the benefit of all of its people. Educational standards have risen considerably over the past three decades. In 1971, the federation had only 74 schools with about 32,800 students attending. In 2000–2001, there were 1173 schools (747 government-sponsored and 426 private), with about 640,000 students attending. Through the Ministry of Education (ME), the government has focused on implementation of the Education 2020 Strategy, a program based on several five-year plans designed to introduce advanced education techniques and improve skills and learning abilities in students. By 2003, the ME plans to complete the first few phases of its Information Technology Education Project, which includes setting up computer labs in all public secondary schools in Dubai and Abu Dhabi and establishing the E-Store, an online marketplace of educational materials and software. The E-Store will be the first of its kind in the Middle East.
In 1999, the National Council approved legislation to establish and regulate a more comprehensive social security benefits program with particular focus on helping women, children, and the disabled. Although women have access to higher education, they are largely excluded from the economy and governmental decision-making. Muslim women are forbidden to marry non-Muslim men, but Muslim men are permitted to marry non-Muslim women (such marriages accounted for 28% of all UAE marriages in 1998). Fourteen percent of women in the UAE are employed in the labor force; married women need the permission of their husbands to be employed outside the home. President Zayid's wife, Fatima, announced in 1998 that women observers would be appointed to the Federal National Council to train for eventual membership in the body. President Zayid in January 2003 appointed 40 new members of the Council; however, none of them were women.