By Ramy Sameeh
ABU DHABI, 28th September, 2022 (WAM) — The UAE has consolidated its position as one of the quickest economies to reach its pre-pandemic levels among GCC peers, said Issam Abousleiman, Country Director of the GCC Countries, Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank.
In an interview with the Emirates News Agency (WAM), Abousleiman said the UAE led the world with a successful vaccination programme in 2021, as well as its monetary and fiscal stimulus packages, which resulted in UAE’s economy to reach its pre-pandemic levels fast.
“Our projections suggest the UAE’s economy will grow 4.7 percent in 2022 which is then expected to average 3.5 percent in the medium term. We project both fiscal and external balances to register surpluses of 4.4 percent and 13.7 percent of GDP; respectively, during 2022, according to the June 2022 projections. We are currently revising these forecasts, which will be published during our Annual Meetings in mid October,” he explained.
He highlighted that Expo 2020 Dubai had a significant impact in bolstering the recovery’s momentum. “The United Arab Emirates established itself as a major participant on the world stage and drew not just visitors but also economic investments. There was a wide range of economic impacts from the Expo; from real estate to tourism and hospitality to investments and logistics,” he added.
According to the World Bank’s recent GovTech Maturity Index, the UAE is one of the most mature countries in citizen-centric online public services in the Middle East and North Africa region. The World Bank report based its classification on four main axes: ‘supporting core government systems’, ‘enhancing public service delivery’, ‘mainstreaming citizen engagement’, and ‘fostering GovTech enablers’.
“Under 48 indicators, the UAE achieved a full score in 31 of them, which qualified it to be among the highest global group,” he said, adding that the Digital Emirates website provides information about digital government strategies, including the Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, Strategy for Artificial Intelligence, National Innovation Strategy, and Emirates Blockchain Strategy 2021.
Abousleiman referred that the government uses a digital government maturity model as a unified reference to assess its own digital maturity. The UAE also publishes its citizen engagement performance and has a dedicated website, mSurvey, that allows the public to articulate their opinions easily and to provide feedback transparently on policies and various development issues. The Dubai government is expected to go completely paperless, eliminating more than 1 billion pieces of paper used for government transactions every year.
The Country Director of the GCC Countries, Middle East and North Africa at the World Bank also said that the GCC region is projected to expand by 5.9 percent in 2022 before moderating to 3.7 percent and 3.3 percent in 2023 and 2024, respectively. “These projections are expected to be revised upwards in our October forecast based on OPEC+ developments of raising production quotas,” he clarified.
On the other hand, and as most of the GCC population has been fully vaccinated, coupled with pandemic pressures fading away, the non-oil sectors are set to continue expanding by more than 3 percent in the medium term, he went on to explain.
Abousleiman also pointed out that in light of the continuation of the US dollar peg, with the exception of Kuwait, which is pegged to a basket of currencies, central banks in the Gulf are and will be on a tighter monetary policy path following the US Federal Reserve (FED) policy outlook. The recent FED decisions to hike the policy rate were matched by GCC central banks at varying amounts.
In another context, Abousleiman highlighted that the UAE was able to enact significant reforms in only six months during the COVID-19 crisis, which sends a powerful signal about the government’s commitment to the gender equality agenda.
“The UAE is moving to have a gender-neutral eco-system. They became the first country in MENA to introduce parental leave for fathers. The amendments to the Personal Status Law brought women freedom of movement and the right to be heads of household; new provisions in the Labor Law introduced equal pay for work of equal value and prohibited gender-based discrimination in employment. The Central Bank introduced non-discrimination based on gender in access to credit and the Criminal Code was amended to combat domestic violence,” he said.
These bold measures will benefit not only the Emirati women now, but generations to come, he said, anticipating that these measures will have direct impact on women’s labour force participation, entrepreneurship, and investment.
“The UAE’s successful reforms have set an important precedent for other countries in the region and have already inspired similar reform programs in Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and Pakistan. We hope that the UAE continues to play a leadership role in supporting further efforts promoting a gender-neutral environment,” he concluded.