OBG talks to Hamad Buamim, Director-General, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Hamad Buamim, Director-General, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry

Interview: Hamad Buamim

Which sectors will be targeted for development as part of Dubai’s economic diversification plans?

HAMAD BUAMIM: The primary driver behind Dubai’s economic prosperity has been the strategy of generating new business opportunities through diversification. Specifically, the emirate has been focused on the trade, tourism and logistics sectors, supported by its well-developed infrastructure and its growing reputation as a centre for international business.

These sectors, together with transport, accounted for almost 60% of the emirate’s GDP in 2011. Dubai has witnessed substantial growth in these areas, backed by the significant increase in passenger traffic through Dubai International Airport during the past two years. Added to this, the financial sector remained robust given the pressure of the real estate slowdown.

Broadly speaking, for policymakers to further enhance diversification in Dubai, they need to help boost the competitiveness and productivity levels of the economy by committing to strategic investments in specific sectors and industries where there is a competitive advantage as well as growth potential. One such example is the technology sector. Economic zones like Dubai Internet City and Dubai Silicon Oasis are flourishing as they attract companies due to their low taxes and simplified business procedures.

Moreover, there should be more of a focus on improving the education system, building financial capital by the development of new financing schemes and instruments, managing the use of natural resources, and enhancing technology with the aim of cultivating innovation and research and development.

What could be done to strengthen Dubai’s reputation as a destination for foreign investment?

BUAMIM: Investor confidence in Dubai has certainly returned since the global financial downturn. However, it is important to point out that GCC and Middle Eastern investors have always viewed Dubai as a strong investment destination, even during these difficult times. In fact, during that period many GCC investors bought up assets that they regarded as being at bargain prices, considering their potential worth in the future. At the same time, the Dubai government’s prudent response to the global financial crisis has raised the emirate’s credibility among overseas investors and boosted confidence in the city’s economy.

In 2011, during the Arab Spring, Dubai was seen to be a safe and stable destination for business and investment, and we saw a number of firms relocate to the city from neighbouring countries. Meanwhile, new laws and legislation that are coming into force are helping to increase investor confidence by providing additional safeguards and improving transparency.

On the whole, investors know the reality on the ground in Dubai. The city’s open-door policy, government support, business-friendly laws and ease of doing business attract many foreign investors. Furthermore, factors including the clear vision of Dubai’s leaders, their commitment to build infrastructure and the partnership between the private and public sectors make the city an attractive destination for investment.

How can international trade volumes be boosted?

BUAMIM: We must continue to promote Dubai and its attractive business environment. We have intensified our efforts to reach out to new and emerging markets while also strengthening our bilateral ties with existing partners. The establishment of representative offices will be a key element in the Chamber’s new strategy and approach. We are aiming to open 20 representative offices worldwide, which will broaden our presence and benefit our members.

Africa, specifically, represents an important emerging market for us, and we have already started working on building relations there. We intend to establish an office in Ethiopia to help companies expand into African markets, where we will provide assistance with identifying investment opportunities, thus enhancing the competitiveness of Dubai’s companies globally.

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The Report: Dubai 2013

Economy chapter from The Report: Dubai 2013

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