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Wed 27 Feb 2008 07:02 PM

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UAE council to boost foreign investment

Emirates National Competitiveness Council will make it easier to do business, minister says.

The UAE plans to create a quasi-government council in order to boost foreign investment and make it easier to set up businesses in the emirates, the Minister for Cabinet Affairs said on Wednesday.

Speaking at a workshop in Dubai, Mohammed Al Gergawi said the UAE currently faced several challenges in attracting foreign investment and new businesses, without going into further detail.

"Foreign trade and investment is critical and as a the economy develops we need to understand the reasons that attract foreign investment and enable new busineses to establish. A flourishing private sector is the most important catalyst for growth," Al Gergawi said.

Foreign direct investments (FDI) in the UAE rose 10.8% to 68.63 billion dirhams ($18.69 billion) in 2006, driven by growth in finance, construction, domestic trade and manufacturing, according to the Ministry of Economy.

Al Gergawi said the Emirates National Competitiveness Council would consist of federal and local government representatives, as well as figures from the private sector, but would not say when the council would be formed or how members would be chosen.

The World Bank's Doing Business 2008 report was also presented at the workshop, revealing the UAE as the most difficult of all the GCC countries ranked in the report to do business in.  The UAE was world rated 68th out of 178 countries in terms of the ease of doing business.

Al Gergawi expressed concern over the methodology of the report, but said new initiatives such as the council would lift the UAE's ranking in 2009.

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