"We are in a new era." So said Rashed Al Blooshi, undersecretary of Abu Dhabi's Department of Economic Development, as he helped unveil the latest round of Ghadan 21 reforms, which aim to propel the UAE economy into the future. The country is taking clear steps to shift its economy away from oil with transformative new legislation designed to enable innovators, creatives and small enterprises to flourish. The initiatives aim to support existing firms and attract new ones to Abu Dhabi and span everything from technology and industry to eco-tourism. An electricity discount scheme will save industrial businesses up to 40 per cent on their tariffs while an "open data" initiative will offer more transparency by giving companies access to information on the consumers they hope to serve. A $4 billion research and development fund will help private firms come up with fresh ideas with financial assistance, under the umbrella of Abu Dhabi Investment Office, while in a seismic move, the government will guarantee up to 75 per cent of bank loans to small and medium size enterprises. These reforms have at their heart a genuine understanding of the realities of modern-day commerce, including the fact that starting a company involves risk and small businesses need all the help they can get. By creating a low-risk environment in which to start a firm, the UAE is establishing itself not just as a Middle Eastern incubation hub but a global one.
In many oil-rich nations across the world, from Nigeria to Venezuela, governments have failed to prepare for the future or to restructure their economies for life after oil. When they fail to do so, their people suffer in the long-run. But the UAE has set itself apart and is in the vanguard of economic diversification. The new initiatives, under the banner of Ghadan 21, will transform Abu Dhabi, bringing lasting benefits to all those who live and work in the emirate and attracting a surge of foreign investment. Ever since Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi's Crown Prince and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, announced the $50 billion stimulus package, change has been in the air. Exactly a year on, the government is delivering on its promises. For local companies and international firms looking to tap into the Middle East's vast consumer market, these bold steps will help enshrine the UAE's reputation as the most attractive business environment in the region.
Among the series of initiatives, the focus on research and development will be critical to ensuring long-term growth and longevity for enterprises. Support in the planning and preparation stages will help seed and nurture ideas and help them blossom. That will transform not just the prospects of local and international industry but the economy and nation as a whole.