The UAE lies at the heart of a strategic, geographic crossroads where trade, commerce and diverse cultures have co-existed and interacted for hundreds of years.
Today, the UAE has one of the most open and dynamic economies in the world. A number of global business indexes have recognized the advantages that the UAE brings to international business. AT Kearney ranks the UAE as one of the top 20 best places in the world for global service business. And the UAE is ranked in the top 30 on the World Economic Forum’s “most-networked countries”—ahead of all other Arab nations, as well as countries like Spain, Italy, Turkey, and India. The UAE also gets positive rankings from Transparency International and the World Bank’s Worldwide Governance Indicators for control of corruption, ranking in the top quarter of the least corrupt countries in the world.
Other clear advantages to doing business in the UAE include:
· No restrictions on profit transfer or repatriation of capital
· No corporate or income taxes
· A currency, the Dirham, that is stable, secure and pegged to the US dollar
· Very low, or non-existent, import duties
· Competitive labor costs
These factors, combined with a strategic geographic location, an expanding infrastructure and an extremely safe environment, make the UAE an ideal place to do business.
About the Government
Under the UAE system of government, the President of the Federation is elected by a body known as the Supreme Council of Rulers. The Supreme Council is the top policy-making body in the UAE, and the President and Vice President are both elected from its membership for renewable five-year terms.
The Supreme Council has both legislative and executive powers. In addition to planning and ratifying federal laws, the Supreme Council approves the President’s nominated Prime Minister and is equipped to accept his resignation, if required.
The Prime Minister is appointed by the President. He or she then appoints a Council of Ministers, or Cabinet, to oversee the development and implementation of federal policy across all portfolios of government.
In addition to the Supreme Council and the Council of Ministers, a 40-member parliament known as the Federal National Council (FNC) also examines proposed new legislation and provides advice to the UAE Cabinet, as required. The FNC is empowered to call and question Ministers in regard to their own performance, providing an additional degree of accountability to the system. Groundbreaking developments to open up decisionmaking were made in December 2006, with the first indirect election of FNC members. Previously, all FNC members were appointed by the Rulers of each Emirate.
The introduction of indirect elections represents the beginning of a process to modernize the UAE’s system of government. Under these reforms, individual Rulers select an electoral college whose members total 100 times the number of FNC members held by that Emirate. The members of each college then elect half of the FNC members, while the other half continue to be appointed by each Ruler.
The process resulted in an FNC in which one-fifth of its members are women.
Future initiatives are expected to expand the size of the FNC and strengthen the interaction between it and the Council of Ministers, to further improve the efficiency, accountability and participatory nature of government in the UAE. In November 2008, the terms for FNC members were extended from two to four years, which is more consistent with other parliaments in the world. In addition, the government will report to the FNC about proposed international treaties and agreements, and those agreements will be discussed by the FNC before their ratification.
Historically, the political environment of the UAE has been characterized by great affection for the country’s leadership and institutions of government. This is largely in response to the rapid growth and development the UAE has experienced under their guidance in recent decades.
The UAE has one of the most open economies in the world. This tradition of welcoming business and trade goes back to early Gulf history, when ships sailed to India and along the coast of East Africa as far south as Mozambique.
The UAE continues to be a strategic hub, with business-friendly free zones and a quickly growing economy. The country has experienced significant economic growth. Average GDP growth over 2000 to 2006 in the UAE was about 8.4 percent—the highest in the Gulf Cooperation Council, which averaged 6.5 percent.
The GDP for 2014 was $419 billion. This reflects the rich natural resources in the UAE, which has 10 percent of the total world supply of oil reserves and the world’s fifth largest natural gas reserves.
As a mainstay to the economy, oil exports now account for about 30 percent of total UAE gross domestic product. In addition to being an important supplier of energy, the UAE is now becoming an increasingly relevant consumer of energy. The UAE will continue its long tradition of responsible energy stewardship as it develops and diversifies its economy, accelerates the development of additional hydrocarbon reserves and contributes to the development and implementation of alternative energy sources.
Diversification Creates Trade Opportunities
The UAE launched a diversification and liberalization program to reduce reliance on oil and transform its economy from a conventional, labor-intensive economy to one based on knowledge, technology and skilled labor. The federal and individual Emirate governments have invested heavily in sectors such as aluminum production, tourism, aviation, re-export commerce and telecommunications.
Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030(link is external) and Dubai’s Strategic Plan 2015(link is external) are leading the drive towards diversification. The strategy is to increase investment in industrial and other export-oriented sectors, including heavy industry, transport, petrochemicals, tourism, information technology, telecommunications, renewable energy, aviation and space, and oil and gas services. Much has already been achieved in these fields, especially in satellite and telecommunications, the aviation sector and in renewable energy, and although short-term priorities have been altered to accommodate changing realities, the long-term strategy remains the same.
At the federal level, the UAE is pursuing its 2021 Vision(link is external), which aims to place innovation, research, science and technology at the centre of a knowledge-based, highly productive and competitive economy by the time of the federation’s golden jubilee in 2021.
Tourism has played a large part in the success of economic diversification. Abu Dhabi's 156 hotels recorded their best year ever in terms of visitor numbers in 2014, while Dubai's 634 establishments have also experienced a significant increase in guests. Other emirates are following suit. The UAE's two world-class airlines, Etihad and Emirates, as well as constant upgrading of aviation infrastructure, have played a major role in the advance of the tourism industry and are key contributors to the economy. Dubai, in particular, expects that the aviation industry will contribute 32 per cent to its GDP by 2020.
A number of global business indexes have recognized the advantages that the UAE brings to international business. AT Kearney ranks the UAE as one of the top 20 best places in the world for global service business. And the UAE is ranked in the top 30 on the World Economic Forum’s “most-networked countries”—ahead of all other Arab nations, as well as countries like Spain, Italy, Turkey and India.
The UAE also gets positive rankings from Transparency International’s corruption index, ranking in the top quarter as a least corrupt country.