Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 27 May 2020

What do Denmark and the UAE have in common in the coronavirus fight?

Two countries with a global outlook have much to teach the world about navigating the pandemic

Yellow stripes painted in the middle of a street to help people comply with social distance guidelines in Aalborg, Denmark May 4. Henning Bagger / Ritzau Scanpix/ via Reuters
Yellow stripes painted in the middle of a street to help people comply with social distance guidelines in Aalborg, Denmark May 4. Henning Bagger / Ritzau Scanpix/ via Reuters

Even as Covid-19 continues to wreak havoc among us, disrupting lives, breaking businesses and stressing society, governments and businesses must focus ahead.

Yes, we do not know all the outcomes and yes, we do not know the chronology, but we can manage uncertainty.

More important is what we do know: that our lives and welfare depend on getting the global economy up and running again as soon as possible.

Already last month – in the midst of the unfolding crisis – Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod reached out to his Emirati colleague, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, to express his hopes for the UAE’s speedy recovery and to underline the importance of getting the global economy back on track.

He pointed to the critical role the UAE plays as a hub for international passenger and cargo traffic. Denmark very much hopes to see all airlines resuming at least a skeleton of operations as soon as possible.

The Danish ambassador to the UAE, Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin. Victor Besa / The National 
The Danish ambassador to the UAE, Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin. Victor Besa / The National

But the UAE’s role in the global economy is much more than just its airports. The UAE plays a key role for shipping between Europe, Asia and Africa, providing logistical services that keep value chains together and ensuring the vital networks linking suppliers and buyers that our economies depend so much upon.

Through a focused effort, port operators in the UAE have remained open for international shipping with hardly any disruptions to services — a success story for the country and for the world economy.

Still, there is more work to do for all of us. There is no denying that we are facing a global recession, but we must become the masters and not the victims of the situation.

Smart government policies supporting a dynamic and responsive business community are the best way to regain what has been lost. Governments can help this by pressing forward with reforms that ease doing business.

They can instil confidence in their businesses through public spending and investment.

The UAE is leading the way in efforts to diversify its economy. The current crisis underlines the importance of that agenda and the need to find ways to support the non-oil business community, so that the UAE can retain its position as the business hub of the Arab world. That oil prices have dropped dramatically does not make any of this easier.

Fortunately, wise fiscal policies give the UAE the necessary economic strength.

At the same time, the crisis also offers us opportunities to invest in the future. In Europe, a large part of the economic stimulus packages will be directed towards facilitating change and paving the way for business opportunities within the digital economy.

The UAE has impressed in the way it has successfully managed the coronavirus crisis – not only through swift and decisive action but also by quickly building new infrastructure and testing facilities, as well as investing in the development of possible treatment and vaccines at home and internationally.

Even more impressively, the UAE found time and resources to reach out to less fortunate countries with help, sending critical equipment and helping finance international relief efforts.

The next step will likely be a comprehensive exit strategy that will allow businesses to plan for the easing of restrictions and normalisation of economic life.

Like the UAE, Denmark has also been very successful in controlling the spread of coronavirus and is now gradually reopening its economy, schools, kindergartens, etc. This is, of course, a positive step for Denmark, but it is far from enough.

Evi Kjaer Everloeff plays with the petals of the Japanese cherry blossom trees in bloom with her mother Rikke Kjaer at the Black Square in Copenhagen, May 3, 2020. Ritzau Scanpix / Ida Guldbaek Arentsen / AFP
Evi Kjaer Everloeff plays with the petals of the Japanese cherry blossom trees in bloom with her mother Rikke Kjaer at the Black Square in Copenhagen, May 3, 2020. Ritzau Scanpix / Ida Guldbaek Arentsen / AFP

Just like the UAE, Denmark’s economy is woven into the very fabric of the global economy. There is no true success for either country before the global economy recovers.

We must bear in mind that this is not the time to end globalisation or restrict the exchange of people, ideas or opportunities.

These are exactly the strengths that will allow the world to defeat coronavirus sooner rather than later.

The world now needs to co-operate even closer to emerge stronger, together. Let’s start today.

Franz-Michael Skjold Mellbin is the Ambassador of Denmark to the UAE

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Updated: May 11, 2020 10:27 AM

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