Three months ago, Abu Dhabi’s government announced a massive stimulus package designed to propel the emirate’s economy into the future. True to its promise, the executive committee on Monday announced a three-year road map to make its ambitious vision a reality. “We have approved a three year Dh50 billion budget for the Abu Dhabi Government Accelerators Programme ‘Ghadan 21’,” announced Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces. The reform drive – under the banner Tomorrow 2021 – will transform Abu Dhabi, bringing lasting benefits to all who live and work here and attracting a tranche of investment from abroad.
The most eyecatching aspect of yesterday’s announcement was that Dh20bn will be allocated next year to boost all sectors of the UAE’s economy. But behind such staggering numbers is a series of carefully structured short and long-term initiatives, the benefits of which will be felt for decades to come. And the broad focus on business, investment, society, innovation and lifestyle will ensure that no one is left behind. Just months after the stimulus was announced, we now have a far better understanding of the role it will play. It now sits firmly within the nation’s far-sighted economic plans, including Abu Dhabi Vision 2030.
This year, the pace of reform in Abu Dhabi – and the UAE – has been staggering. New licences now allow entrepreneurs to work from home and permit companies in free zones to establish onshore branches, giving them greater flexibility and fostering a more competitive environment. Foreigners in certain sectors will soon be able to own 100 per cent of their Abu Dhabi-based companies. And 10-year visas will allow those who live and work here to plan for the future, encouraging them to buy property and put down roots. The UAE already sits at 17th place on the World Economic Forum global competitiveness index but reforms like these will certainly see it rise further up the rankings. At its essence, the stimulus is designed to bring more start-ups, SMEs and technology-led businesses to the UAE. Doing so will boost entrepreneurship and foster a knowledge economy.
Already positive effects are being felt, as the country gets more and more competitive. In other nations across the world, from Venezuela to Nigeria, governments are failing to prepare for the future, to the detriment of their people. Often those endowed with significant oil bounties are the worst offenders. Not so in the UAE. This country’s leadership has its gaze fixed firmly on the future. And as a result all of us – from businesses to families to residents and citizens – are certain to prosper.