x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Reform outdated laws, UAE is urged

Competitiveness council's chief calls for faster change.

The UAE must speed up economic reform and review out-of-date laws if it wants to rival leading nations, the head of the Emirates Competitiveness Council said yesterday.

"We need to fast-track the process of regulation," said Abdullah Lootah, the organisation's secretary general. "We cannot operate as a country that's aspiring to be in the top 10 with laws and policies created in the'70s, '80s and '90s."

He said that ensuring the UAE is able to foster new ideas to develop its economy will require updated laws on copyright, royalties and intellectual property.

Although the UAE ranks highly among Middle East countries on competitiveness, maintaining its edge will require drastic reform of the way laws and regulations are implemented, Mr Lootah said.

The UAE is 33rd globally in the World Bank's ease of doing business rankings. However, on some measures, including protecting investors and enforcing contracts, the country ranks much lower.

Mr Lootah said recent legislation including laws regulating small businesses in Dubai and the companies law, which was updated from its 1984 version by the Cabinet last month, were steps in the right direction.

The 1993 law that criminalised bankruptcy has also drawn criticism from others in Government. A draft insolvency law currently under consultation is expected to answer some of those criticisms.

The country's network of free zones had initially served to attract companies from across the world, taking international regulations as their benchmark.

But these are no longer sufficient for the large numbers of companies seeking to do business from the Emirates, agreed Jarmo Kotilaine, the chief economist at Saudi Arabia's National Commercial Bank. "Where the UAE wants to become a world-class centre of excellence, it needs to work harder and more systematically," he said.

Other regional economies, including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, had squeezed greater productivity from their industries through focused reforms, he said.

ghunter@thenational.ae