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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Private sector investment in infrastructure key to UAE growth, says Government

Officials call for balance between profitability and responsibility at the Shaping the Future of Public Private Partnerships conference in Dubai

'In the future we need to open the door to more partnerships,' a Government official said. Chris Whiteoak / The National
'In the future we need to open the door to more partnerships,' a Government official said. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Private sector investment in large infrastructure, energy, health and education projects is vital to ensure balanced growth and development across the country, Government officials said on Monday.

A federal law on public and private partnerships was key to encouraging investment and demarcating responsibility and accountability on both sides. This was particularly true in emirates where local authorities did not have the experience of working with private firms.

Sultan Al Mansoori, Minister of Economy, said on the opening day of a conference on Shaping the Future of Public Private Partnerships in Dubai: “In the future we need to open the door to more partnerships. As a government we are responsible for the economic sector. We need to understand how we can benefit from this relationship to facilitate national growth. We cannot do all this until we open the doors to new partnerships.”

“One of the priorities of the Government is to involve the private sector in education, energy, health and roads. We may not be able to continuously invest so we have to look at the future to create partnership where we get maximum benefit from companies with knowledge, technology, creativity and innovation.

“We don’t want projects in one emirate. We want projects throughout the Emirates. We want all the emirates to grow, not just one emirate. I personally believe we have to find a model to work that is satisfactory to both parties and to the culture of the UAE.”

Officials said the Government must focus on its role as a regulator as it monitors and implements rules to protect the rights of all residents.

“A federal law is one of the most important points we should work on. It is a recommendation from the International Monetary Fund that the UAE needs a clear law on partnership between the public and private sectors,” Mr Al Mansoori said.

Encouraging private participation would increase competition and improve quality, officials said.

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority said it had dealt with private sector contracts since 2007, but federal and local legislation would pave the way for private investment in mega infrastructure projects.

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“It’s hard to find investors who can supply funds for big projects like transport. Guarantees needed for these projects that cost billions can be a challenge to both parties,” said Abdul Younes, chief executive of the RTA’s Rail Agency.

The RTA has worked with private consortiums to develop, design and maintain metro stations, car inspections centres and real estate developments surrounding transport hubs.

The transport authority developed contracts and set up councils to manage such projects, he said, adding “there must be a balance between profitability and responsibility. The public sector must be flexible to work with the private sector.”