UAE's resilience ranks it 9th globally for economic competitiveness despite the pandemic

Stable economy and handling of the health crisis helped the Emirates avoid pandemic-induced swings that affected other countries

FG81FD View of new business district at Abu Dhabi Global Market square (ADGM) on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi United Arab Emirates. Alamy

The UAE retained its rank as the ninth most competitive nation in the world for the second year in a row, maintaining its position as the only Arab country among the top 10, despite Covid-19 headwinds, according to a survey by Switzerland's International Institute for Management Development.

The IMD World Competitiveness Ranking 2021 measures the prosperity and competitiveness of 64 countries based on economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency and infrastructure, as well as a survey of executives operating in the respective economies.

Switzerland topped this year's ranking, followed by Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and Singapore.

The UAE also secured a top 10 ranking in 40 main and sub indicators measured in the report that assesses student mobility, cyber security, language skills, health infrastructure, entrepreneurship, attitudes toward globalisation, the adaptability of government policy among other metrics.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, UAE Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, hailed the country's achievements on Twitter and said the Emirates would press on with its development plans.

"We did not stop during the pandemic and we will not stop after it," he said.

There were major swings in country rankings "due to the aftermath of the pandemic, and the results it has left on various aspects of countries’ performance indicators measured in the report”, the IMD said. The fact that the UAE maintained its position “is testament to the country’s stable economy and the strength and effectiveness of the policies enforced since the pandemic”.

The UAE's economy continues to recover from the pandemic-driven slowdown, aided by Dh388 billion worth of economic support measures. Government initiatives, including visas for expatriate retirees and the expansion of the 10-year golden visa scheme to encourage foreign professionals to settle in the country, have also helped to improve investment sentiment.

The country reaped the dividends of investment over the past two decades in its infrastructure and embracing of technology that helped it adapt and weather the Covid-19 pandemic.

The UAE's ranking in the index is a testament to the country's government's ability to turn challenges into opportunities, especially during the Covid-19 crisis, Abdullah Al Marri, UAE's Minister of Economy, was quoted as saying in state news agency Wam.

The UAE's leading rankings in indexes related to exports of commercial services, entrepreneurship, and trade to GDP ratio, underscore the country's strategic vision, the efficiency of its economic and development policies and the sustainable model adopted to maintain global competitiveness, he added.

The economy is set to grow by 2.5 per cent this year and its non-oil economy by 3.6 per cent, according to Central Bank of the UAE estimates. The economy is forecast to expand 3.5 per cent in 2022 and non-oil growth will rise to 3.9 per cent.

The country also aims to double the size of its economy over the next decade to Dh3 trillion ($817 billion) by 2031, economy minister Abdulla Bin Touq said last month.

"Thanks to the prudent vision of our wise leadership, the UAE focused on turning the challenges that accompanied the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 into practical opportunities for growth and progress through a proactive approach that looks forward to the future," Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, Minister of Industry and Advanced Technology, said.

The country managed the health crisis "with the highest levels of readiness and preparedness, which contributed to consolidating economic and social stability and catapulting various sectors to advanced levels compared to many countries of the world", he added.

Other countries from the region that featured in the index were Qatar in 17th place, Saudi Arabia in 32nd and Jordan which came in at 49th place.

The UAE's strong position is testament to the country's stable economy and the strength and effectiveness of the policies enforced since the pandemic

The best-performing economies are characterised by varying degrees of investment in innovation, diversified economic activities and supportive public policy, according to the survey.

“Strength in these areas prior to the pandemic allowed these economies to address the economic implications of the crisis more effectively,” the IMD said.

Switzerland improved its economic performance compared with last year, particularly in international investment and employment. Under the government efficiency index, it achieved the highest placing in terms of public finances and institutional frameworks, according to the survey.

Sweden, which moved up to 2nd place from 6th last year, also ranked highly in terms of economic performance, employment and government efficiency. Denmark dropped one place in the rankings to 3rd place, due to a relatively poor performance in government efficiency, according to the survey.

Other countries that saw an improvement in 2021 included the UK, which moved up a notch to 18th place, France which came in at 29th, Italy at 41st and Greece at 46th.

“China’s rise in the rankings, from 20th to 16th, continues the upward trajectory it has been on for a decade, thanks to its continued reduction of poverty and boosting of infrastructure and education,” the IMD said.

While Singapore remained the top-performing Asian country, it slipped to fifth this year from the top spot it had held for the past two years.

“Singapore has run into problems with job losses, lack of productivity and the economic impact of the pandemic,” the survey said.

Regionally, Eastern and Central Asia, and Western and Eastern Europe rose in the competitiveness rankings this year, while North and South America and Western Asia and Africa declined.