Interview: Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum
What are the main themes and aims of Dubai Plan 2021, and how does it complement the UAE Vision 2021 strategy?
SHEIKH HAMDAN BIN MOHAMMED BIN RASHID AL MAKTOUM: Dubai Plan 2021 was launched to build on the achievements of the Dubai Strategic Plan 2015, which was announced in 2007 by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, vice-president and prime minister of the UAE and ruler of Dubai. It looks to continue on that path by articulating an ambitious and challenging vision for Dubai’s future. UAE Vision 2021 and the national agenda indicators were key inputs for its development, since Dubai has always been and will always be an integral part of the UAE story. Dubai Plan 2021 describes the future of our city through holistic and complementary perspectives that ultimately converge around our people and society. The plan describes how our people can play a central role in the growth of the city, and how society can support and empower its members in achieving greater excellence. It also addresses Dubai’s urban environment, including both natural and built assets, as well as the living experience of its people and visitors as a result of their interaction with this environment and the economic and social services provided. In addition, Dubai Plan 2021 also focuses on the economy, which is the city’s development engine and its fuel going forward. Finally, the plan addresses the government as the custodian of the city’s development in all aspects. These perspectives have been divided into six themes, each highlighting a group of strategic developmental aims for Dubai, and together forming the city’s vision for 2021.
How have global economic conditions affected Dubai and its future economic strategy?
SHEIKH HAMDAN: The open nature of Dubai and its connectedness to the world economy means that we are not free from the impact of global trends and events, as was the case with the global financial crisis. However, Dubai was able to recover quickly from the impact of these headwinds. These developments presented a perfect opportunity to identify ways to increase the robustness of our economic model. To continue excelling in an increasingly competitive world, it is vital for Dubai to further solidify its core, be better at coping with shocks, and establish a distinctive offering rooted in knowledge and innovation. Accordingly, Dubai aims to strengthen its global footprint and enhance its standing as an international business centre in trade, logistics, finance and tourism. It also seeks to develop itself into the capital of the global Islamic economy.
Despite challenging worldwide economic conditions, Dubai was able to achieve a robust growth rate of 4.1% in 2015. This growth was spurred on by the solid performance of its key strategic sectors: trade, logistics, tourism and financial services, which constitute around 70% of its GDP. Dubai has also firmly established itself as a regional and global player in these sectors. This is demonstrated by the fact that Dubai is ranked first regionally and 10th internationally as a global financial centre, and first regionally and second internationally as a global Islamic economic centre. Jebel Ali Port is ranked first regionally and ninth globally, while Dubai International Airport is ranked first regionally and third globally. The industrial sector is also a core component of Dubai Plan 2021. This sector will generate higher innovation and productivity within the economy, thus supporting our efforts to ensure a sustainable economic model, and higher resilience against internal and external shocks.
As we move forward, innovation will play an increasingly important role in Dubai’s economic development. The government has embedded innovation in all aspects of its work to ensure that its policies, programmes and services address the needs of the people, the business community and other stakeholders. We are also engaging with our academic institutions and the private sector to build strong channels of communication and establish a platform that will drive innovation in all fields and sectors.
In what sectors do you see the greatest potential for public-private partnerships (PPPs)?
SHEIKH HAMDAN: Fruitful partnerships between the government and the private sector have been instrumental to Dubai’s success throughout its history. PPPs have played an important role in the development of some of the emirate’s critical infrastructure. As Dubai continues to grow and expand into new sectors, it is increasingly important that we further enhance our partnership with the private sector. The rapid growth in Dubai’s population, combined with our economic development ambitions, major new projects and the hosting of large global events, like the World Expo 2020, is placing additional demands on services and infrastructure. To cope with this demand, and to maintain the high quality of services and infrastructure, the government will continue to partner with the private sector.
We expect to see an increase in PPPs for building and operating critical infrastructure in transport and energy, as well as in social sectors, including health care and education. Dubai’s new innovation and sustainability-focused economic plan will bring about new opportunities to invest in renewable energy, technology and space, in addition to the economy’s long-standing backbone, the service sectors. Finally, we see a substantial opportunity to invest in the light industries sector, which will be strengthened to enhance our economy’s robustness.
What changes do you see in the competitiveness strategies of Dubai in the coming years and why?
SHEIKH HAMDAN: Dubai Plan 2021 clearly spelled out our determination to be the best in ease of doing business. We want Dubai to be a top choice for entrepreneurs and corporations as a base for their business. We want to attract the world’s best minds and talent, and be a global leader in new thinking and creativity. To do this, Dubai will focus on innovation, livability and governance.
In Dubai Plan 2021 we have a clear focus on achieving high economic growth through a diversified base of economic activity, innovation in business models, and increased productivity of labour and capital.
Livability has become a key determinant for the success of cities and countries. The world’s leading cities and nations have adopted knowledge-based economies built on innovation and creativity, the key component of which is the people. As we move forward, these leading cities will go head-to-head in attracting the world’s best talent. These talented individuals will choose to live in a place that not only offers them the chance to participate economically, but also provides them with a high standard of living. Accordingly, Dubai Plan 2021 has placed strong emphasis on providing the right mix of services and experiences that will make Dubai the city of choice for the world’s top talent. Availing this talent pool in Dubai will bring an even stronger value proposition for businesses that want to make Dubai their home.
On the governance side, we believe in pursuing the highest levels of excellence. The government has already made huge strides in providing world-class smart services and in creating a nurturing environment for investment. Our plan is to take this to the next level. We have been working on implementing our vision of providing seamless and connected smart services that are based on the needs of individuals, businesses and visitors. We are also focusing on enhancing the transparency, simplicity and robustness of our policies and regulations. Additionally, we are opening up new channels for engaging and communicating with all our stakeholders, to establish a true partnership in driving Dubai’s future agenda.
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