Shifting alliances and technological advances were among the key trends that impacted global trade in 2018. Despite traces of protectionism surfacing in some developed markets, the UAE emerged resilient as ever in the face of rapid change, thanks to its well-diversified economy and forward-looking policies.
The introduction of value added tax (VAT) in the UAE was a natural and necessary step for a maturing economy like ours to maintain its stability. Trade, tourism and infrastructure continue to fuel economic growth, especially within Dubai as Expo-related projects progressed. Dubai’s non-oil foreign trade grew to Dhs645bn ($175.6bn) in the first half of 2018, while 8.1 million international visitors were hosted in the emirate over the same period.
Economic stimulus plans unveiled earlier this year by the Dubai government can be best described as significant improvements to ease of doing business. Advocating on behalf of the private sector, Dubai Chamber made important policy recommendations on reducing cost of business and enhancing successful public-private partnerships in line with the goals of the stimulus package.
For Dubai Chamber, 2018 was a very productive year as we expanded our global presence with the opening of two new representative offices in Panama and India. These offices complement our global network and greatly support our efforts to strengthen our relationships with key public and private sector stakeholders in Latin America and Asia.
During the Year of Zayed, we reflected as a nation on our past, evaluated the present, and worked towards a future that meets the aspirations of younger generations, while we also supported the release of a new book celebrating the lasting legacy of the UAE’s Founding Father.
The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s strong focus on economic diversification serves as a driving force for us, as we strive to create a favourable business environment that attracts capital, enterprises and talent in equal measure.
Dubai’s winning bid to host the World Chambers Congress 2021 was another major success that we celebrated in 2018. We look forward to working with the ICC World Chambers Federation over the next year to organise and deliver a Congress like no other.
Looking ahead, we expect 2019 to be a pivotal year for Dubai with preparations for Expo 2020 in full swing. The tourism, hospitality, logistics, transportation and retail sectors are already feeling the Expo effect with infrastructure and expansion projects transforming the city.
The adoption of disruptive technologies such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, and 3D printing will accelerate Dubai’s transformation into one of the world’s smartest cities. Dubai Chamber will roll out new innovative services and solutions to our members and the business community that will further improve ease of doing business in the emirate.
We are always on the lookout for new and innovative business ideas that support Dubai’s transition to become a global innovation hub. The Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Business Innovation Award, Dubai Innovation Index, Dubai Smartpreneur Competition and Market Access are key Dubai Chamber initiatives to watch in 2019 as they serve as barometers for innovation activity within business communities in the UAE and abroad.
Dubai Chamber plans to step up its efforts to promote Dubai on an international level through its Global Business Forum series. For the first time ever, the Global Business Forum on Latin America will be held outside of Dubai as we take the high-level event to Panama City in 2019. This premier forum will complement our international outreach efforts, build bridges with key stakeholders in the region, and explore new avenues of economic cooperation.
At the same time, GBF Latin America 2019 supports our strategy of exploring promising markets around the world and identifying business opportunities for our members, while the forum is an ideal platform to position Dubai as a global gateway for Latin American companies.
All of these strategies and plans have been developed with the aim of supporting the strategic objectives outlined in the Dubai Plan 2021. With the valuable support of public and private sector players in Dubai, I am confident that we can fast track the emirate’s progress and cement its reputation as global business hub offering endless potential and possibilities.