PROGRESS & POTENTIAL

Abu Dhabi 2016 | ECONOMY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to HE Fahad Saeed Al Raqbani, Director General of Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (ADCED), on the Vision 2030, government projects, and the Emirate's economic growth ambitions.

HE Fahad Saeed Al Raqbani
BIOGRAPHY
HE Fahad Saeed Al Raqbani was appointed as Director General of Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (ADCED) in September 2010. Al Raqbani joined ADCED in June 2008 as Deputy Director General, and has since led his team to actively contribute to achieving Abu Dhabi’s economic progress. In his previous experience, both with Mubadala Development Company and the UAE Offsets Group, he gained strong expertise in leadership, international project finance, and project management. He is a board member of a number of companies, including Senaat, Waha Capital, Emirates Steel, Tabreed, Duke University, and the Future Centre.

It has been nine years since the creation of the economic vision, Vision 2030, and seven years since its implementation. How do you assess the progress so far, and what areas do you believe need more direct attention?

The current trends of high oil price volatility since the end of 2014 has highlighted how wise and forward-thinking our government was in initiating and driving an ambitious diversification plan for Abu Dhabi's economy since 2008. During the last seven years, Abu Dhabi managed to achieve not only a solid but resilient growth despite a challenging environment that is still prevailing both globally and regionally. When the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030 was designed, no government around the world would have predicted that the 2008 global financial crisis would occur and that global economic recovery would be that fragile, uncertain, and slow to materialize. In less than a decade, Vision 2030 has radically transformed the entire landscape of Abu Dhabi; the government has invested heavily in infrastructure and development projects in several sectors of the economy.

How do you work with the public and private sectors to maximize the UAE's economic potential?

The composition of ADCED's Board of Directors, with members from both the private and the public sector in addition to representatives from the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce and business councils, reflects our commitment to work with most of the important stakeholders of the economy to achieve the Emirate's economic growth ambitions. Most of our economic studies and initiatives involve regular meetings with stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. Our main role is to identify the main challenges faced by the private sectors in Abu Dhabi and collectively find solutions to enhance the economic potential of the emirate. The core of any successful and sustainable economy is to develop a vibrant, dynamic, and competitive private sector.

ADCED has a policy to encourage the growth of SMEs and provide a buffer to economic shocks. How has this plan worked out so far?

Our main contribution is to facilitate the business environment and make sure that opportunities are available for the private sector to flourish in all sectors of the economy. SOEs have shown complete inclusive cooperative attitude toward local businesses. We are expecting the private sector to gradually benefit from the development of the SOEs in various sectors. Only a long-term plan and development strategy can guarantee the consistency and the sustainability of a sector's development over time that can benefit the private sector. If we take the case of the company Strata in Al Ain, its development strategy is based on a clear long-term vision of where the aircraft industry and airlines are headed on a global level over the next 10, or even 20, years. Hence, a long-term vision is crucial.

How close are you to completely realizing your Vision 2030 objectives?

When Vision 2030 was developed, the oil sector represented around 60% of Abu Dhabi's real GDP. It now accounts for around 50%. At the UAE Government Summit held in February 2015, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, when asked if in 50 years we will be sad when the last drop of oil is shipped abroad, declared that “if we are investing today in the right sectors, I can tell you we will celebrate that moment." This powerful statement summarizes the Vision 2030. We are determined to invest our wealth in our people development and in diversifying the economy for a post-oil future. Both the Abu Dhabi economic vision 2030 and the UAE vision 2021 are pointing toward the same direction: diversifying our economy, empowering our people, improving our competitiveness and developing a knowledge-based economy encouraging both innovation and entrepreneurship.