The UAE has become a model of business optimism given its ability to withstand economic storms and sustain growth despite downturn in many other countries, the minister of economy said on Sunday.
Sultan Al Mansouri also expected the UAE economy, the second largest in the Arab world, to maintain its positive momentum this year and grow by up to 3.5 per cent, adding that inflation will remain under control.
.Addressing a UAE-UK business forum, Sultan Al Mansouri said the UAE has managed to weather global fiscal turbulence to become among the top 20 merchandise exporters and importers in the world.
“Our country is firmly on the growth track – this year we are set to grow by 3-3.5 per cent, with inflation well under control,” he said.
“Over the past two years, when the world at large faced the challenges of the global financial crisis – some of it still pestering the European Union – the UAE has evolved as a model of hope and business optimism.”
Mansouri said the UAE, controlling the second highest Arab per capita after Qatar, has demonstrated its ability to “sustain economic momentum and drive growth” despite the global slowdown and turmoil in some parts of the region.
“Stability and unity are the cornerstones of social and economic prosperity in the UAE. As a federation of seven emirates the UAE has remained the most stable and successful example of unity in the Arab world.”
Citing figures by the World Trade Organization (WTO), Mansouri said the UAE was the world's 13th largest exporter with $235 billion or two per cent of the world's total merchandise exports in 2010, surpassing major exporting countries such as India, Australia, Brazil and Malaysia.
The UAE was also ranked 18th largest importer in the world, having imported nearly $170 billion worth of merchandise goods, representing about 1.4 per cent of the world's total imports, he added.
“The UAE is already a well-diversified economy with over 70 per cent of its GDP coming from non-oil economic activity…our economy is a unique model where the private sector is a major contributor to social and economic progress, chiefly on account of the diversity of its expertise and job creation,” he said.
“We also have the advantage in being centrally located with fast and convenient access to the emerging markets across the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia (MENASA)….we want to build stronger links with the world, improve connectivity and facilitate movement of capital and goods to be acknowledged as global hub and gateway to the MENASA region.”
Mansouri said his ministry is currently working on the development and issuance of 19 laws to enhance performance of the UAE economy, through clearly defining and streamlining trademark, industries, arbitration, competition, investment, companies and small and medium enterprises (SMEs).
He said the new laws would reflect the “best international practices in the conduct of business” and take the UAE closer to its goal of being recognized as a knowledge-based economy.
“Another sector that we expect positive growth in is aviation and tourism. The UAE is targeting a figure of 15 million tourists by 2020,” he said.
The Minister said the forum, to be held twice a year, would contribute to expanding bilateral trade and would support targets set during the first meeting of Joint Economic Committee in October 2009 to achieve 12 billion pounds in 2015.
“I can think of several areas where we can share expertise in small and medium enterprises, financial services, including Islamic financing, energy, sustainable and renewable energy, information communication technology, healthcare and life sciences, new and emerging technologies, including nanotechnology, tourism development and management of hotels, real estate, education and training.”
In another address, Nassir Al Suwaidi, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Department of Economic Development (DED), said he hoped such meetings would help develop economic links and business sectors in both countries.
“The Forum creates a perfect climate for exploring possible opportunities, exchanging ideas and discussing all issues aiming at reinforcing means of cooperation and trade ties,” he said.
“The Forum reflects the desire of the two governments to build long-term economic relations in the fields of finance, trade and politics…… and we want our partnership with the UK to reveal how far the great historic ties between the two countries have reached,” he added.
Suwaidi noted that more than a million UK citizens visit the UAE every year and around 100,000 British nationals are living in the Emirates, adding that this helped the number of British companies to mount to 4,000.
“Those companies contributed significantly to the most distinguished development projects in the UAE such as Burj Khalifa, Yas Island, Formula 1 Circuit, and other outstanding projects in the petroleum and gas sector.”
His figures showed the UAE has remained Britain’s largest commercial partner in the Middle East, with the volume of trade exchange between the two countries reaching nearly 7.8 billion pounds in 2009.
“This event also gives the private sector the opportunity to meet with the decision-makers from both sides,” he said.
“Both governments are aware of the fact that public financing is the driving force of economic growth… however, in order to achieve sustainability and diversity, other means are required. This can be fulfilled if the private sector takes part in this development process, provided that the government supports the local and foreign companies.”