TBY talks to HE Hani Al Hamli, Secretary General of the Dubai Economic Council (DEC), on the importance of building the knowledge economy, how the Emirate is looking to benefit from the One Belt, One Road initiative, and the effect of PPP legislation.

HE Hani Al Hamli
HE Hani Rashid Al Hamli is the Secretary General of DEC. His tenure has seen the establishment of the Dubai Competitiveness Center (DCC), the Economic Policy & Research Center (EPRC) and the Legal Affairs & Research Center (LARC). He has pursued strategic partnerships to enhance the scientific efforts underpinning economic policy. Previously, Al Hamli had held diverse public and private sector positions in Dubai, including the Executive Council-Government of Dubai, Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Emirates Bank Group, and the Investment & Development Authority. He is a graduate of Business Administration from the UAE Higher Colleges of Technology.

Dubai has focused its efforts on diversifying its economy through knowledge and innovation. How do these elements complement each other?

Knowledge has always been central to economic development. Human capital and technological development are directly linked to increases in the productivity of capital and labor. However, this requires well-articulated, knowledge-based government policies and interventions, particularly within the fields of science, technology, industry, and education. The private sector has to be encouraged and empowered by the government to invest in innovation through a properly applied incentive system and conveyed vision. We have a very specific vision to become the economic, touristic, and commercial capital for more than two billion people, which will be achieved by promoting innovation, increasing R&D expenditure, strengthening the regulatory framework for key sectors, and encouraging high value-adding sectors. The government has placed itself in the knowledge-based arena as an example to the private sector and other governments to translate vision into reality. According to World Bank's Knowledge Economy Index, which assesses 146 countries based on essential knowledge economy pillars, the UAE was ranked 42nd in 2012, up six positions from 2000. Moreover, when disaggregating the KEI into the main four pillars of the index, the UAE is ranked 13th on the ICT index.

How is the DEC engaging with the One Belt, One Road initiative and how will Dubai benefit from it in the long run?

The DEC has forged strategic partnerships with a number of high-profile economic decision-making circuits, major financial institutions, research and advisory centers in the People's Republic of China to cooperate and coordinate in many areas of common interest. Among those entities: Bank of China, China Development Bank, China Council for the Promotion of International Trade, among others. We believe these partnerships would help involving Dubai in the 'One Belt' megaprojects. Dubai has established itself as one of the main transit points for expanding the Gulf's commercial dealings with Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Western Europe. In the future, Dubai's role as a trade hub will grow, and the new Silk Road will attract more businesses to the Emirate. Dubai is a rapidly growing city within the region and is considered a logistic hub for China because of its location and the strength of its infrastructure. We see China's initiative as an opportunity to strengthen Dubai's role as a global hub for trade and logistics.

From your perspective, what has been the impact of 'Dubai Law No. 22 of 2015 Regulating Partnerships between the Public and Private Sectors', one year after it was enacted?

The government's embrace of public private partnerhsips has been overwhelmingly perceived as a paradigm shift in contemporary economic thought. According to international best practices, PPP is regarded as a exemplary method for governments to provide quality and efficient public services or infrastructure-related services in a cost-effective manner. Additionally, the PPP model can alleviate a burden from the public fund through tapping the private pools of finance especially in some structures that entail privately financed schemes. Through PPP, the granting agencies can transfer significant risks to the private-sector partner. Overall, all these elements will result in cost savings and greater efficiency. This much-anticipated law has been seen as a vehicle primarily for alternative funding of infrastructure projects. PPPs have been used throughout the world, including the MENA region, for quite some time as a way of further promoting economic diversification and attracting FDI. It is still premature to assess its sum impact, but it clearly conveys a strong message on private sector involvement. The new law provides a mutually beneficial arrangement; the public sector receives innovative and experienced partners, which in return receive a secure source of revenue and gain access to a new market and the chance to expand their businesses.