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Capital pledges to intensify support for the private sector

Abu Dhabi Economic Forum opened yesterday. (MAGDY ISKANDER) 

By Nadim Kawach

Abu Dhabi reassured investors yesterday that mega projects it is planning to undertake would not be affected by the global financial crisis, saying such ventures are vital for realising sustained growth in its economy.

The emirate's officials, opening the two-day annual Abu Dhabi Economic Forum, said expansion of the private sector to allow it to spearhead the domestic economy also remains a goal in its long-term development strategy.

While implementation of the strategy, Vision 2030, is not easy given the long time element and changes around the world, the emirate's leadership is determined to push ahead with that plan to achieve its targets in growth and diversification despite unpredictable oil sales, they said.

Speaking at the opening of the conference, which attracted hundreds of officials and businessmen from the UAE and other countries, the Undersecretary of the Abu Dhabi Department of Planning and Economy (DPE), Mohammed Omar Abdullah, said DPE has already started preparing the next five-year plan for 2013-2017, which is part of Vision 2030.

"The next plan takes into consideration the global financial crisis, which has affected many sectors worldwide… We will observe all the new developments and changes in preparing this plan but of course our priorities will remain the same and basic principles will not be touched," Abdullah said.

"These principles include intensifying support for the private sector to enable it to take the lead in the domestic economy, expanding the network of our strategic relations with other countries to attract more foreign direct investment, and ensuring sustainable growth in our economy… Besides, there will be no change in our strategies to carry out mega projects, which are crucial for the success of our long-term strategy…. There is no way these projects will stop or shelved."

Abdullah said the emirate would also continue to develop and upgrade laws to lure in capital, ensure better transparency in companies and other establishments in the emirate, push ahead with projects to improve infrastructure, guaranteeing sufficient financing for major enterprises and ventures.

He said other points in the emirate's five-year plans would also be implemented gradually. The plans include expansion of facilities and incentives for investors, promoting Abu Dhabi as a key investment destination and creation of statistics unit.

Speaking during a question and answer session, another Abu Dhabi official said preparation of the long-term vision was the easier part of the plan.

"The difficult part is its implementation," said Abdullah Al Ahbabi, Director of Policy Development and Strategic Planning at the Abu Dhabi Executive council.

"But we in the government departments realise that the task would be completed because there is a strong determination by our leadership to complete it… We have instructions to achieve all defined targets no matter what the local or international circumstances are… For this purpose, some of our local departments have been recently restructured and a control system has been introduced to monitor performance and assess the success of each five-year plan."

In an inaugural address, DPE's Chairman Nasser Ahmed Al Suwaidi said Abu Dhabi is still sticking the targets set in its Vision 2030 despite the global financial turmoil. The targets include achieving viable growth, lessening reliance on oil, enhancing the government's partnership with the private sector and expanding strategic links with other nations to turn Abu Dhabi into a knowledge-based economy.

"We will also focus on building an open and competitive business environment capable of integrating into the global economy, stimulating the private sector to allow it to contribute to all economic activities, chalking out a long-term policy to respond to any economic pitfalls, creating a flexible and effective environment for financial and monetary markets and continuously developing our infrastructure that can match the aspired economic development."

Suwaidi said Abu Dhabi, one of the largest oil producers in the world, would deal with the global distress through what he termed "short- and long-term plans".

"In this respect, we renew our commitment to supporting infrastructure projects, social services, health, education and other sectors," he said. "I can assure you that Abu Dhabi's economy, which will provide massive business opportunities in the future, will continue to play a pivotal role in financial and commercial activities in the region. We expect all the sectors to keep growth this year albeit not at the same level of past years."

Turning to the global financial distress, Sowaidi said the UAE should not look at the crisis from a negative perspective.

"We should look at the lessons derived from this crisis so we can benefit from them in developing and expanding our capabilities because there is a strong hope that the situation will start improving following the positive response and measures taken by many governments and central banks worldwide… There is no doubt such measures will prevent an aggravation of the economic recession."

Key points in Abu Dhabi plans 

- Formation of an economic forecasting unit

- Establishment of the Abu Dhabi Business Centre as the sole licensing authority for projects

- Creation of a government statistics department

- Launching promotion campaigns for foreign capital including the setting up of "invest in Abu Dhabi" website

- Intensifying measures to protect investors and consumers

- Setting a timetable and deadline to achieve the strategy's goals

- Handling complaints by all businessmen and traders

- Adopting international licensing procedures

- Expanding facilities and incentives for all investors and businessmen

- Promoting Abu Dhabi for international investors at the geographic and sector levels

- Monitoring prices to ensure feasibility of projects for investors

- Preparing an annual report on Abu Dhabi economic and social development