DEVELOPING EXCELLENCE

Abu Dhabi 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Eng. Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehhi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy for Economic Affairs, on supporting the non-oil sector's contribution to GDP and working towards a sustainable post-oil economy.

HE Eng. Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehhi
BIOGRAPHY
HE Eng. Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Al Shehhi is Undersecretary for Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Economy of the UAE, and has been at the Ministry since 2006. HE is on the board of Emirates Petroleum, is Chairman of Arab Mining Company, and board member of the Emirates Identity Authority and the Emirates Standardization and Metrology Authority. He also heads the Competition Committee of the UAE and Agency Committee, along with the Trade Marks Committee. Previously, Al-Shehhi held senior executive roles at Emirates Telecommunications Corporation (Etisalat) across an eventful career that spanned 17 years. Al-Shehhi holds an executive master’s degree in Business Management from the American University of Sharjah.

Non-oil economic sectors contribute about 70% of the UAE's GDP today. What are the most important of these sectors in the UAE's drive for diversification?

The UAE's non-oil sectors are marked by great diversity due to the government's long-standing and sound economic policies. Among the various key sectors contributing to GDP, wholesale, retail, and maintenance are at the forefront, accounting for 11.9% according to 2014's statistics. Real estate and business services comes next at 10.9%, followed by construction and building at 10.5%, manufacturing and transformative industries at 7.8%, and transport and storage at 6.3%. Other active sectors such as utilities, financial services, insurance, hotels, and restaurants make valuable contributions as well.

A sustainable post-oil economy is the target that the UAE aims to achieve in the next few years. What are the Ministry of Economy's plans to promote this government policy?

The Ministry continues to help develop laws and regulations that will create a modern legislative system to improve the ease of doing business in UAE and increase the country's attractiveness for foreign investments. Innovation and R&D are key factors in all our plans as well. SMEs, entrepreneurship, and intellectual property are also major considerations under the Ministry's strategies. Of these sectors, we are specifically targeting an increasing contribution to GDP from the industrial sector. We wish to achieve economic and financial integration with the GCC due to the extreme importance of these countries for the UAE's economy. Our foreign trade with our fellow Gulf states accounted for 9% of our total foreign trade in 2014. We seek to achieve integration through the establishment of long-term joint Gulf projects, work on the GCC rail network, remove intra-GCC custom ports, and develop cohesive GCC laws. In addition, the Ministry intends to increase the country's exports by further diversifying its economic partners, signing additional free trade agreements, and implementing national initiatives for export development. Strengthening the role of the private sector in the national economy remains at the heart of our plan.

The Ministry of Economy has made remarkable efforts to develop the UAE's intellectual property sector. How far have these efforts gone and what have been the results?

The Ministry has come up with a series of initiatives to develop the intellectual property sector in various areas such as copyright, trademarks and patents, utility certificates, and industrial designs related to industrial property. This included a recently launched action plan for developing the industrial property sector, which involves the creation of an International Centre for Patents. This will encourage the development of the industrial sector through new technologies and inventions that will enhance the overall competitiveness of the national economy. The Ministry has conducted a number of visits that have culminated in agreements and MoUs. One such agreement has been made with the Korea Intellectual Property Rights Information Service to develop an industrial property program.

The Islamic economy is gaining greater importance in the governmental policy of the UAE. How do you evaluate the UAE's experience in developing this relatively nascent sector?

The value of international investments in the Islamic economy is around $8 trillion. This sector did not see the same results of the 2008 global economic recession and the total value of Islamic banking equities stands at about $1.3 trillion and is expected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2020 because of high international demand for these financial services from both Islamic and non-Islamic countries. The UAE leads Arab countries and ranks second globally, among 73 countries in the Islamic economy index, measuring economic system integrity in the Islamic banking sectors. This is cross-sectorial, examining halal products, family tourism, digital content, knowledge and research, Islamic arts, and Islamic quality standards. HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has launched the “Dubai the Capital of the Global Islamic Economy" initiative and established the Dubai Islamic Economy Development Centre, alongside plans to establish the first global Islamic bank for imports and exports.