STRENGTHENING FROM WITHIN

UAE 2018 | FEDERAL GOVERNMENT | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Alshehhi, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Economy of the UAE, on the value of creativity, the development of the industrial sector, and supporting SME development.

Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Alshehhi
BIOGRAPHY
Mohammed Ahmed Bin Abdul Aziz Alshehhi has been the Undersecretary for Economic Affairs at the Ministry of Economy of the UAE since October 2006. He has provided strategic leadership to the Ministry of Economy in aligning policies and administration with global economic parameters and the visionary UAE 2021 vision. Over the last five years, he supervised the comprehensive program of the ministry to review and modernize the entire legal framework regarding economic activities in the UAE. He holds an Executive MBA from the American University of Sharjah and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the University of South Florida-Tampa.

How are innovation and creativity pushing the country's development, and which sectors have benefited the most from investments in these areas?

Ever since the government began laying the foundation for an environment that fosters knowledge and innovation, we have seen higher interest in entrepreneurship as a direct result of SMEs and start-ups getting access to much-needed funding. Efforts for human capacity building, especially among citizens, are ramped up to complement the country's steady modern-day growth. Knowledge and innovation play a crucial role in the country's efforts to diversify its sources of income as well by building an industrial environment fueled by knowledge, innovation, modern technology, and scientific R&D. Additionally, sustainability enablers are empowered through the enactment of important policies aimed at promoting faster industrial growth in line with UAE Vision 2021. All sectors are fully committed to the UAE's bid to adopt a knowledge- and innovation-driven economy thanks to their proven benefits and necessity. At the Ministry of Economy, for instance, we have launched 12 relevant initiatives and 39 projects covering a wide spectrum of creative developmental activities, specialized micro-projects, and manufacturing and research initiatives.

With a 16% share of the national GDP, the industrial sector has been positioned as the beacon for economic diversification. What have been the major advances in this regard during 2016?

In 2016, we witnessed a high-performing and vibrant local industrial sector on account of a strong economy supported by key government policies such as the economic diversification strategy. The sector's core areas have remained resilient despite global uncertainties thanks in part to this all-encompassing strategy, which also seeks to reinforce the performance and efficiency of the local business community. The UAE is now in fact the third-most efficient market in terms of goods, which could be viewed as the result of our government's efforts to reduce our reliance on oil. The non-oil sector's GDP contributions in 2015 climbed to about 77% at current prices and 70% at constant prices. For our part, the ministry is fully committed to doing its share by continually supporting investment spending on strategic and value-added projects.

The newly implemented Bankruptcy Law has raised expectations regarding better practice for indebted SMEs. What is your view of the impact of the law on the SMEs and the national economy?

The government has enacted the law and undertaken other measures precisely to fuel the growth of SMEs. Increased incentives, establishment of a common definition for SMEs, and provision of modern facilities and benefits tailored to fit the needs of SME owners and local entrepreneurs have been put in place to initiate growth and development in the sector. The approval of the Executive Regulations to the Federal Law on SME projects to incentivize local businesses and provide them with access to funding has further stimulated its expansion. The Ministry of Economy has forged strategic partnerships with various countries to further invigorate the SME sector, improve its competitiveness, ensure its sustainable growth, and widen its reach by facilitating its entry to new foreign markets, with emphasis on innovation, technology, and knowledge.

What are the economic prospects of the ongoing plan to build a vibrant knowledge-based economy in the UAE in terms of job creation, attracting young entrepreneurs, and contributing to the country's economic diversification?

All our efforts are geared toward putting the UAE in the top-10 countries on the Global Innovation Index, in line with UAE Vision 2021. The UAE has already achieved significant milestones and progress in its journey towards economic prosperity, as evidenced by its inclusion in the 2016 Global Innovation Index. The Ministry of Economy has also opened the state-of-the-art International Centre of Patent Registration (ICPR) in collaboration with its South Korean partner. The new international center will also conduct a skills development-training program for professionals in the field of intellectual property as well as pursue research on relevant topics.