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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 October 2018

Tomorrow 2021: Abu Dhabi business leaders predict a stronger 2019

'The grant will support the economy and particularly the contracting sector, which needs the support,' says Emirati businessman Ahmed Al Mazrouei

Business leaders believe construction will be boosted by the Dh50 billion stimulus package. Victor Besa / The National
Business leaders believe construction will be boosted by the Dh50 billion stimulus package. Victor Besa / The National

Abu Dhabi's business leaders have predicted a strong start to 2019 when Dh20billion is injected into the economy under the landmark Tomorrow 2021 plan.

Experts suggested confidence in the emirates would be boosted further following an announcement by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi that a total of Dh50 billion had been earmarked to assist small businesses and create new jobs over the coming three years.

“It inspires confidence that the leaders and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed have a vision to move forward with the economy of Abu Dhabi... to stimulate business and to create job opportunities," said Hussain Al Nowais, a leading businessman and chairman of Khalifa Fund, which has helped to launch more than 2,000 start-ups and small businesses.

"The plan is not only to invest in business but the human capital as well – ensuring that UAE nationals and expatriates receive the support they deserve."

Alongside the cash injection, Tomorrow 2021 is intended to create jobs for Emiratis, encourage the growth of technology companies, create a research and development industry and improve quality of life for all residents.

“The government realised that the cost of running business has increased recently and that therefore they needed to come up with a plan," said Al Nowais.

"Because if businesses don't make money and the costs are high, investors will leave.

"We need to encourage investors to stay and businessmen to continue to invest in the country. Ultimately it is a cycle – they invest, the economy moves on.

“I don’t know numbers but the costs have increased and as a result of that we saw many foreign expatriates leave the country. Whether you are an expat or local, we are all part of the same system so when the expats left it affected business. This is a cohesive country and society."

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A series of changes have been unveiled in recent months that will now allow start-ups to launch without a physical address and make it easier for free zone businesses to trade onshore.

“[We do need to] ease processes, such as licensing and registration... not to get things in a month or a week but in a day and an hour. This will help investors and business," Al Nowais said.

Ahmed Al Mazrouei, a businessman and deputy head of the UAE Contractors Association, which represents about 500 companies, said the construction industry has struggled this year.

“The grant will support the economy and particularly the contracting sector - which needs the support,” he said.

“We have been in deadlock and there hasn't been a lot of growth in terms of new business, with many [companies] pulling out and shutting down. The grant will stimulate the market.

“We will see more demand for projects which also means the need for a larger workforce, creating more opportunities for nationals and expatriates."

He predicted a knock-on effect and greater demand for accommodation and services.

“The entire economy will be invigorated once again,” he said.

Business leaders stressed that in a local economy driven by public sector spending, any substantial injection of investment, leading to the issuing of contracts, construction projects and new rounds of hiring, with stimulate the wider economy, including health and education.

Mohammed Ali Al Shorafa Al Hammadi, chief executive of United Eastern Medical Services (UEMedical), which runs Danat Al Emarat Hospital, HealthPlus Network and Moorfields Eye Hospital Abu Dhabi predicted the stimulus package will lead to a "bigger workforce and a flourishing economy".

Dr Shamsheer Vayalil, chairman of the hospital group VPS Healthcare, said start-ups and small businesses need government spending to remain high.

“We strongly support the notion that entrepreneurship will help develop and strengthen the UAE’s economy and help it become future-ready," he said.

“These measures would also allow for the knowledge generated by entrepreneurs create lasting prosperity and benefit society as a whole. One of our projects aims to encourage high school students to build and market their innovative ideas."

Yusuff Ali MA, founder of the Lulu supermarket chain, said the government has listened to businesses and the wider community.

"I am sure each one of us will not only benefit from this but should also look at contributing actively to the further development of this great nation," he said.