United Arab Emirates: UAE Continues To Lead The Way For Foreign Investment

Last Updated: 23 August 2018
Article by Samer Qudah, Nazanin Maghsoudlou and Stephanie Stewart

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has long been described as a business-friendly country in the mainstream media and in widely followed surveys of competitiveness. The last couple of months have seen a wave of official measures and initiatives that aim to make Dubai and Abu Dhabi more cost effective (and easier) places in which to live and to run businesses.

Even more open for business

On 20 May 2018, the Cabinet of the UAE announced two major changes, both of which were highlighted in tweets by HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai and the Prime Minister of the UAE:

1. Long Term Residency Visas

Under a new visa regime, 10-year residency visas will be available for 'specialists in medical, scientific, research and technical fields, as well as for all scientists and innovators'. The new visa regime will also include five-year residency visas for students who are studying in the UAE and up to 10 years for 'exceptional students'.

2. 100% Foreign Business Ownership

In a strategic move to boost the economy and attract global investments, it was announced that the UAE will allow foreign investors in specific sectors to wholly own their businesses by the end of 2018.

Currently, the only way that foreigners could own up to 100% of a business was through one of the various Free Zones in the UAE; otherwise, the ceiling for foreign ownership in mainland UAE was 49%.

Whilst it has not yet been decided as to which sectors will benefit from the announcement, we believe that the decision will be linked to factors such as job creation and significant investments relating to advanced technology and artificial intelligence.

From these breakthrough decisions, it is clear to see that the UAE governments are working hard to maintain their title of global leader and the “business hub” for foreign investment. It is well documented that the UAE never does things by half and therefore not surprisingly, the exciting announcements did not stop there...

More Action to Reduce Business Costs

Waiver of Corporate Fines

On 29 May 2018, Dubai's Department of Economic Development (“DED”) drew attention to Decree No. 20 of 2018, which exempts companies that operate in the Emirate from paying all fines imposed on them, and which facilitates the renewal of licences. HE Sami Al Qamzi, the Director General of Dubai's DED, noted that '[the Decree] will add to the financial benefits of the owners of expired business licenses, restore legal records and licenses, and help the business community in Dubai enhance their competitiveness.'

Subsequent press reports from 9 June 2018 indicated that the waiver of fines applies to fines that have been issued before 14 April 2018. Businesses that have received fines since then can pay the amounts owing in instalments by arrangement with the DED. The press reports also noted that businesses have until the end of 2018 to renew their licences to operate in Dubai.

Abu Dhabi's DED announced similar exemptions 'for establishments whose licences have expired for more than 24 months from paying the delayed and accumulated fees'. HE Mohammed Munif Al Mansoori, the Chief Executive of Abu Dhabi Business Centre, emphasised that the exemptions apply to all establishments regardless of their size or type. The exemptions are valid in all three of the main regions of the Emirate – Abu Dhabi, Al Dhafra and Al Ain.

Going the Extra Mile

3 Year AED 50bn Stimulus Package

The Executive Committee of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council discussed a three-year AED50 billion (US$13,624 million) economic stimulus initiative.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed announced the plans for the project, which aims to support Abu Dhabi's economic development by introducing ten key initiatives; some of which are detailed below:

  • Abu Dhabi Office Space Exemption: All new business enterprises that register in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi will be exempt from the requirement of having an office or workspace in the Emirate for two years.
  • Boosting Growth and Competitiveness: There will be a variety of new public-private partnerships in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi: 'The initiatives marked for 3Q18 also include encouraging and organising local production and supporting SMEs to boost their competitiveness locally and regionally, in addition to the issuance of dual licenses for companies in Abu Dhabi Free Zones to enable them to work outside the free zones and to participate in government tenders'.
  • Instant Licences: 'During the last quarter of 2018, the Executive Committee will roll out its plan for the implementation of instant licensing systems in most commercial license types and all services provided by the Government, in addition to the review of building regulations for the infrastructure, residential properties, commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the developmental requirements and community facilities of other residential areas in Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Al Dhafra'.

As expected, these initiatives have created a huge media buzz in the country, with all sorts of opinions and questions being asked about what it all means for the future. While this largely remains to be seen, what really matters is that the governments are now acting decisively to address the biggest problem for most establishments in the UAE.

This is at a time that the high costs of doing business in Dubai and Abu Dhabi have been boosted by the introduction of Value Added Tax (VAT) from the beginning of 2018.

Hype and Hard Numbers: the UAE was already a competitive country

These announcements are remarkable for two reasons. One is that so many of them have been made in a short period of time by the governments of the UAE, namely in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. The other is that conventional wisdom already sees the UAE as having a (very) competitive business environment in both a regional and a global context. A lot of positive publicity has, for instance, been generated by Expo 2020, which will take place in Dubai.

The hype is supported by hard numbers. In May 2018, the Lausanne-based Institute for International Management Development (IMD – a leading business school) published its 2018 World Competitiveness Ranking. The UAE is currently in seventh place overall (between Denmark and Norway), having been in 10th place in 2017. The UAE is ranked second of the 63 countries assessed in terms of business efficiency (after Hong Kong), third in terms of economic performance (after the United States and mainland China), and fourth for government efficiency (after Hong Kong, Switzerland and Singapore). The UAE is also the only GCC country whose ranking in terms of the Global Competitiveness Index (GCI) calculated by the World Economic Forum (WEF) has clearly improved over the last five years. In 2012-13, the UAE was ranked at 24/144. In 2017-18, the country's position had advanced to 17/137

Addressing the main problem, and ensuring a legacy beyond Expo 2020

A clue as to why the UAE's governments are taking these steps now comes from that part of the WEF's research, which deals with the most problematic factors for doing business, in the opinion of the various companies that were surveyed. In most of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries, the key challenges are restrictive labour regulations and lack of access to finance. Lack of finance was the most serious problem in the UAE. However, inflation – a minor challenge in the other GCC countries – came in as a close second.

The impact of inflation depends on two factors. One is the rate of change of prices in the basket of goods and services that is being considered. The other is the base from which prices are rising. In the case of the UAE, that base is already high by global standards. In the Cost of Living survey compiled by consultancy Mercer in mid 2017, Dubai and Abu Dhabi were, respectively, the 19th and 22nd most expensive cities for expatriates. The survey covered 209 cities. The UAE's two main cities are, for expatriates, about as costly as San Francisco (21st) and more expensive than London (29th).

To watch

While it is fair to say that the particulars of the announcements are not yet known; what we can rely on is the fact that the UAE has an excellent track record of following through in delivering their promises, meaning that investors and talented individuals alike should expect positive news in the near future.

We believe that the key measure of success of the initiatives will be linked to the number of new enterprises that are incorporated in Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the future. With the array of incentives such as long term visas and reductions in set-up fees, it is hard to see why people would not jump at the chance of doing business in the region.

For now, observers in the rest of the world will focus on the UAE like never before when Expo 2020 comes to Dubai. The latest announcements should have a positive impact on perceptions and the realities of the UAE's economy.

Over the long-term, the governments will do whatever it takes to maintain the competitiveness of Dubai and Abu Dhabi in a regional, and indeed global, context. The UAE's economy should continue to flourish and diversify long after Expo 2020.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Authors
 
In association with
Related Topics
 
Related Articles
 
Up-coming Events Search
Tools
Print
Font Size:
Translation
Channels
Mondaq on Twitter
 
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
 
Email Address
Company Name
Password
Confirm Password
Position
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Accounting
 Anti-trust
 Commercial
 Compliance
 Consumer
 Criminal
 Employment
 Energy
 Environment
 Family
 Finance
 Government
 Healthcare
 Immigration
 Insolvency
 Insurance
 International
 IP
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Litigation
 Media & IT
 Privacy
 Real Estate
 Strategy
 Tax
 Technology
 Transport
 Wealth Mgt
Regions
Africa
Asia
Asia Pacific
Australasia
Canada
Caribbean
Europe
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
U.K.
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.

Disclaimer

The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.

General

Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions