Looking Into the Future


Economic News

22 Jul 2010
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On February 3, Dubai's ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, unveiled the Dubai Strategic Plan (DSP) - 2015, a broad-based plan that outlines the emirate's social and economic objectives for the next eight years.

Among the key points of the DSP is achieving a gross domestic product (GDP) of $108bn and lifting real per capita income to $44,000 by the end of the plan's life span.

If the past is anything to go on, Dubai has a good chance of meeting these goals. In 2000, Sheikh Mohammed laid out an economic agenda for the emirate for the coming decade, Vision for Dubai, which included raising the GDP to $30bn, increasing per capita income to $23,000 and reducing oil's contribution to the GDP.

By the midpoint of the ten-year plan, the GDP had increased to $37bn, per capita income was $31,000 and, with the boom in the services and financial sectors, the non-oil sector represented 95% of GDP.

One of the factors for the DSP's success is the GDP's sustained growth of 11%. While this may seem ambitious, it is actually 2% lower than the economic expansion the emirate has enjoyed for the past six years.

"The plan will not be affected by oil price fluctuations," said Sheikh Mohammed. "Dubai has succeeded in diversifying its sources of income, and reducing its dependence on oil."

Sheikh Mohammed said Dubai would focus on economic sectors in which it has a strong competitive advantage and that are expected to experience global growth. These were identified as tourism, transport, trade, construction, and financial services. Dubai would also look to create new sectors within the economy capable of developing a "sustainable competitive edge", he said.

However, Sheikh Mohammed said that success in strategic development cannot be defined solely by major achievements in these economic sectors; progress in social and legal areas are also key.

Fundamental to the success of the DSP will be measures to increase the level of participation in the economy by Dubai nationals and to further improve the education system to better meet the needs of society and the economy.

To support economic and social development, the plan specifies a massive but managed expansion of the emirate's infrastructure involving careful urban planning and meeting energy, electricity and water requirements while preserving the environment.

One of the key elements of the plan calls for improved transparency and accountability in all state activities, through a modernisation of institutional structures and a devolution of some policy making functions. This drive for accountability is to include performance-based budgeting and resource allocation and linking state and organisational budgets to the strategic plan.

While the DSP gives a major role to the state in managing the overall process, the role of the private sector was also stressed. From forming partnerships with the state to provide select services to taking on a larger role in the economy, the private sector is expected to be one of the main beneficiaries of the DSP as well as one of the key elements in making it work.

Sheikh Mohammed said he wanted the DSP to serve as a compass, pointing the way for the private sector, which should make full use of the programmes and projects that will stem from the plan in order to fully benefit from them in the years to come.

Though the DSP has its own specific goals, Sheikh Mohammed, who is also the prime minister and vice president of the UAE, stressed the plan is aligned with the overall strategic plan being prepared by the UAE cabinet. The DSP could also serve as a blueprint for neighbouring and friendly oil-producing countries in their efforts to restructure and diversify their economies, he said.

According to Suresh Kumar, CEO of Emirates Financial Services, the objectives set out in the DSP were realistic and achievable.

"It is a continuation of the momentum we have been seeing for the last 10 years," he said in an interview with the local press. "Of course, it includes stretched targets but that is how it should be."

The targets may be stretched but Dubai's proven track record of meeting and exceeding its goals means that the glittering prize held out by Sheikh Mohammed could well be within reach.

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