Industry across the country is set for a big boost as the Government aims to raise the sector's contribution to GDP to 25 per cent in the next 15 years, the Minister of Economy says.
It currently accounts for about 15 per cent of economic output, said Sultan Al Mansouri.
To achieve the goal, local and federal governments need to work hard to ease investment and foreign ownership rules, he said.
"This is really the challenge," he said yesterday. "All the laws and regulations being worked on should really enhance and attract the investment into the industrial sector. If we provide the right environment, we should be able to have a contribution of the industrial sector of up to 25 per cent to the UAE."
The Government also needs to focus on attracting the right type of industries, he said.
"It has to offer a long-term return and more stable type of industry," he said. "It will take a lot of focus on the type of industries the UAE wants to attract."
Petrochemicals was one area in which the country had not done enough to tap downstream opportunities, he said, adding that expanding the petrochemicals industry would "open the world for us".
The UAE has been focusing on channelling investment into a mixture of energy-intensive industries as it strives to diversify its economy away from oil. Petrochemicals, aluminium, glass and steel are among the industries it has started from scratch.
Officials recognise, however, that to expand the country's industrial sector into new areas they need to attract foreign investment and expertise.
A step has already been taken in that direction with the approval by the Cabinet in December of a new companies law. The legislation potentially eases strict ownership rules for companies in certain sectors.
"The companies law is almost done now and is with the National Assembly," said Mr Al Mansouri. "There are certain areas within there that allows for foreign ownership of 100 per cent. With that in mind and the Government making the right decision about attracting proper investments in industrial sectors, hopefully we will be able to address the issue of national ownership."
Growth in the overall economy this year depends on how oil prices fare, he said. GDP expansion, however, was likely to be higher than the estimate for last year of 3.3 per cent, he said.
Mr Al Mansouri made the remarks on a tour of an Emirates Glass factory in Dubai yesterday. Emirates Glass is a cornerstone in the UAE's drive to establish an industrial footprint, he said.
The company is doubling production capacity at its plant in the emirate to 3.5 million square metres, said Khalid bin Kalban, the managing director and chief executive of Dubai Investments, a diversified conglomerate that owns Emirates Glass. The plant specialises in coating architectural flat glass and exports to more than 28 countries.
Dubai Investments also aims to increase the output at Emirates Float Glass, its plant in Abu Dhabi, from 450 tonnes per day to 600 million tonnes. The factory makes products for homes, buildings and cars.
Dubai Investments has about Dh300 million (US$81.6m) of debt coming due this year, part of which it will repay and the rest it will restructure, Mr bin Kalban said.
It may consider issuing a sukuk of between Dh750m and Dh1 billion this year to raise cash for glass expansion projects, Mr bin Kalban said.
"We are going for a Dh750m sukuk, but some banks in negotiations are telling us to clear the old debt so we may push the Dh750m to Dh1bn," he said.
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