Viewpoint: Sheikh Maktoum bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum

Dubai’s transformation from a coastal village to a global centre in just a few decades has been a remarkable journey. The emirate has become a model for how lofty vision combined with careful execution can transform a city. We went through several phases to become a 21st-century global hub. Our progress was primarily focused on economic diversification from oil into new sectors, such as future technologies, trade, tourism and manufacturing. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the vice-president and prime minister of the UAE, and ruler of Dubai, led the creation of a city characterised by excellent services, high levels of productivity, ease of doing business, dynamic public-private partnerships (PPPs) and economic resilience. From an early stage he emphasised the importance of maintaining a private sector mindset with a clear focus on goals, and strong governance and management.

The Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) is a flagship of the new phase of Dubai’s economic expansion, which is being driven by knowledge and information. At a time of sluggish growth in the global economy, Dubai’s purpose-built financial cluster saw registered firms expand by 8% in the first half of 2018. In 2017 The Banker magazine ranked the DIFC among the world’s top-10 financial centres. Today, the DIFC is a gateway to opportunities in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia, whose 3bn people and combined GDP of $7.4trn offer favourable conditions for financial firms.

The DIFC has built a sophisticated infrastructure and a vibrant financial services community that companies can tap for new businesses, partnerships and knowledge sharing. It has created a robust legislative, regulatory and dispute resolution framework with independent courts and regulators. The DIFC’s Dispute Resolution Authority has become the preferred platform for legal and commercial dispute resolution in the emirate and the broader region. Meanwhile, the DIFC is determined to stay ahead of the competition by focusing on advancements in innovation and technology. It aims to triple its commitment to the financial technology (fintech) sector, which has become a massive game changer worldwide. With a vibrant fintech community of over 50 firms, Dubai has already developed into one of the region’s leading fintech centres and one of the world’s top-10 fintech hubs.

Fundamental to the DIFC’s success is the strong base of PPPs, which has helped Dubai ensure the rapid execution of projects, optimal management of resources and reduction of operational costs. These collaborations have given us access to the best technology, and we are committed to helping businesses and investors reduce the costs of their operations.

In the first half of 2018 Dubai introduced a string of business incentives, including reducing municipality fees, waiving penalties and fines, and enabling payment for licence renewal in instalments. The UAE announced 100% foreign ownership in onshore entities and a 10-year visa for professionals and investors.

Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision is now propelling Dubai to become a global leader in innovative technologies. From artificial intelligence and robotics to space sciences and sustainability, innovative technologies will drive Dubai’s next cycle of economic growth. Dubai is constantly innovating to serve the needs of its citizens, residents and visitors, and we aim to have 25% of our buildings 3D printed and 25% of all transport to be driverless by 2030.

Our Smart Dubai initiative aims to make Dubai one of the most connected and sustainable cities in the world. The Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park is expected to be the largest single-site solar park in the world. The environment is a key focus of our development strategies, and we have ambitious plans to design sustainable urban spaces. As I look towards the future, I am confident that Dubai will keep consolidating its global leadership. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has deeply embedded in Dubai’s DNA a fierce determination to achieve all of its goals.