SATISFYING INVESTOR EXPERIENCES

Abu Dhabi 2019 | INVESTMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Ahmad Bin Ghannam, Acting CEO of Abu Dhabi Investment Office (ADIO), on efforts to improve the ease of doing business, its key goals, and incentives for investors.

BIOGRAPHY
Ahmad Bin Ghannam is the Acting CEO of ADIO. Until recently, he was also responsible for the Department of Economic Development's planning and statistics functions, and for overseeing the development of the Emirate's economic policies and plans. He has over 15 years of senior executive experience, with prior contributions to Tawazun and Etisalat, and was a member of the UAE Federal Government's Civil Service Council. He has master's degrees in strategic and security studies from the National Defense College in Abu Dhabi and in public administration from Harvard University. He has a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of Kentucky.

What does the major restructuring in the past few years mean for Abu Dhabi's business ecosystem?

A number of restructuring efforts were implemented over the past two years, with the business ecosystem being a key target for improvement. Today, Abu Dhabi boasts a globally competitive business environment that continues to steadily register significant improvements, making doing business in the Emirate smoother and easier than ever before. The current attractive business environment plays a crucial role in attracting new investors with innovative ideas to our market while encouraging the expansion of existing investments. Our ability to attract further FDI will grow further as the Emirate's business ecosystem continues to move up the global competitiveness scale. Examples of the latest efforts aimed at improving the ease of doing business, especially for individual entrepreneurs and SMEs, include: Streamlining and consolidating the registration requirements at Department of Economic Development (DED) and Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce & Industry (ADCCI); simplifying property registration; easing the process of obtaining construction and building permits and setting up an electronic system for issuing initial approvals; simplifying the process for obtaining an SME license through the “Tajer Abu Dhabi” initiative; issuing new e-commerce licenses that allow individual entrepreneurs and SMEs to conduct trade through electronic websites and the social media; and launching the TAMM system, a fully integrated electronic system to obtain trade licenses through DED's website in one step.

What is the significance of the MoU signed between ADIO and the Office of the Chinese Business Council?

This MoU indicates the strength of business and trade relations between the UAE and China. The agreement aims to strengthen inter-institutional cooperation and exchanges between both parties, and provides further trade and investment opportunities for businesses with the aim of strengthening and deepening existing bilateral, economic, and trade relations. Through ambitious joint projects run by public-private sector partnerships and attracting foreign investment, Abu Dhabi is charting a course toward greater economic diversification, liberalization, sustainability, and enhanced non-oil export capacity. Countries that follow the footsteps of China in this sense will stand to benefit from the attractive investment opportunities that Abu Dhabi's current and future development course has to offer.

What are ADIO's key strategic priorities, and what is the driver behind this direction?

Key strategic priorities include positioning Abu Dhabi as a trusted partner and preferred investment destination, growing Abu Dhabi's FDI in terms of value and number of projects, and providing business services that ensure satisfactory investor experiences. The key drivers to achieve these goals are the new mandate to unify investment promotion and investment attraction activities across Abu Dhabi government and state-owned enterprises; policy prerogative to grow the private sector's role in the economy, especially SMEs; substantial improvements in the ease of doing business, competitiveness, and innovation over the past decade of concerted effort to diversify the economy; and significant investments in growth and enabling sectors that have created unique investment opportunities across the value chains.

What are Abu Dhabi's major regulatory incentives for further investments?

There are no taxes on income and profits; the ability to remit capital and profits; a modern real estate law that fully protects and guarantees the rights of investors; up-to-date anti-dumping and bankruptcy laws; a flexible, modern labor law that equally guarantees the rights of labor and employers; modern SMEs Law; and a draft investment law that will allow 100% foreign ownership in specific target sectors throughout the Emirate. The key challenge is that Abu Dhabi's local market is perhaps relatively small and highly competitive, and investors would need to keep an eye on exports to other regional and international markets. The Emirate's world-class airport and seaport provide great connectivity to markets across all five continents. The central geographic location of the Emirate is certainly an added huge advantage in this respect.