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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

Tawazun Economic Council convenes major defence contractors

Growth in non-hydrocarbon sectors in the UAE is expected to pick up to 5% in 2021, chief economic development officer says

Tawazun Economic Council discussed economic diversification with defence contractors. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Tawazun Economic Council discussed economic diversification with defence contractors. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Tawazun Economic Council, the agency responsible for the UAE's diversification efforts for the past 26 years, hosted its eighth Defence Contractors Council meeting on Sunday aimed at promoting economic sustainability and a knowledge-based economy.

The council, originally created in 1992, operates the Tawazun Economic Programme, which drives economic growth from the country’s robust defence procurement activities. The UAE’s defence spending in 2014 (the most recent data available) was equivalent to about 5.6 per cent of its GDP, according to the World Bank, and it was the world’s third-largest defence equipment importer during the 2012-2016 period, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Speaking to the gathering of senior executives from international defence companies such as Saab and Raytheon, Matar Ali Al Romaithi, chief economic development officer of the council, said the growth in non-hydrocarbon sectors in the UAE is expected to pick up to 5 per cent in 2021 from 2 per cent in 2017, and its contribution to the GDP will increase 80 per cent.

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“Set to celebrate 48 years of union, the UAE is steadily striding to achieve its future goals for sustainable and comprehensives development. Thanks to the wise leadership’s vision, the UAE has continued the course of diversification and progress and achieved new milestones,” Mr Al Romaithi said.

He highlighted the Tawazun Economic Programme, which has moved the UAE toward privatising water and electricity services, promoting small and medium-sized enterprises, as well as growing the number of public-private partnerships, third-party healthcare insurance providers and the number of UAE companies pursuing initial public offerings.

Alan Davis, chief executive of Raytheon Emirates, talked about the defence contractor's efforts to develop local national talent and contribute to the UAE's advancement of a knowledge-based economy.

Anna-Karin Rosen, chief executive of Saab Middle East called the UAE “one of Saab’s key markets" with its regional headquarters in Abu Dhabi since 2017, as well as the recent opening of a sales and production centre in Tawazun Industrial Park, Abu Dhabi.

“We thank the Defence Contractors Council for bringing to light the potentials for collaboration among the local and international contents of defense programme in the UAE. With events like this, we encourage our industry members to participate and learn about the new environment and players in our ecosystem,” Mr Al Romaithi said.

Since its establishment, the council has enabled creation of more than 90 companies and investment vehicles, covering 11 sectors, including defence manufacturing, creating 95,000 jobs. These companies play a critical role in economic growth in the UAE and include some of the country’s household names such as Mubadala Investment Company, Dolphin Energy, Etihad Airways and the Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority.