2021: A year of economic resurrection and golden moments for the UAE

Op-ed by Hisham Al Gurg, CEO, Seed Group and the Private Office of Sheikh Saeed bin Ahmed Al Maktoum

The year gone by was special, for it brought to the fore the UAE’s resilience, strength, and vision to rise to the challenges thrown by the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting global economic volatility. The country rolled out its biggest vaccination campaign in history to soon make global headlines by administering doses to 91.37 per cent of its population in no time.

The UAE’s GDP, which contracted by 6.1 percent in the forgettable year of 2020, bounced back to grow at 2.7 percent, and as per the World Bank’s latest projection, it is poised for an upward trajectory at 4.6 percent in 2022, thanks to the federal government’s several proactive measures and fiscal stimulus to keep the business ecosystem running and growing.

Giving a tremendous push to the economic revival and overall optimism was the commencement of the much-awaited Expo 2020 Dubai, the biggest global event in the Arab world in its 168-year-old history, in October. The first World Expo in the Middle East is witnessing the participation of 191 countries and over 1,200 companies, with an expected footfall of 25 million visitors. The mega event, which will continue till March 2022, is forecast to add 1.5 percent to the country’s GDP.

The speedy economic recovery also saw the non-oil private sector improve to its strongest level in over two years. The UAE’s IHS Markit Purchasing Managers’ Index rose to 55.9 in November from 55.7 in October, the highest since June 2019.

If the UAE enjoys a unique position in the comity of nations and is one of the leading business and investment destinations, it is due to the farsightedness of our founding fathers for a brighter future. The UAE’s Vision 2021, launched in 2010 to guide the nation’s economic development, culminated last year. As a nation, the UAE celebrated its golden jubilee in 2021, which was declared the “Year of the 50th”. The festivities will continue until March 31, 2022, when citizens, government entities, and private sector entities will collectively chart a roadmap for the next 50 years.

The UAE’s visionary leadership remains steadfast in building on the rich legacy bequeathed to us by our founding fathers. The country has adopted a multitude of other development plans, including Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, Centennial Plan 2071, and “Projects of the 50” to fast-track the economic transformation.

The landmark decisions to allow 100 per cent foreign ownership of companies and extend long-term residency permits to tech entrepreneurs have given a major boost to the start-up ecosystem in the country. Dubai and Abu Dhabi are now particularly on global entrepreneurs’ radar. With the economy opening up further and more foreign direct investment and business talent coming to the country, the year 2022 promises to be even more exciting and full of opportunities.

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