02 March 2022
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Dubai: Positioning for the future

Dubai's economy is well position to successfully transition onto the next phase of its economic cycle.


By Emirates NBD Research

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Dubai’s economy is by all good measures the region’s most diversified. The emirate’s leadership and its policymakers have begun the path that now places Dubai as an important global axis for trade, with construction in the 70’s of its key ports; first Rashid Port in 1972 and then Jebel Ali port in 1979, the latter the world’s largest man-made harbour, and the biggest port in the Middle East.  Building outsized capacity in infrastructure has come to define the emirate’s drive to diversify. Dubai Airport along with Emirates Airlines have delivered on successfully connecting the emirate as crucial nexus in global travel, and the growth of both positioned Dubai to leverage on its leisure infrastructure and trade enabled economy. Policy execution, and a government focused on service excellence, offered businesses operating in the region the needed framework to operate efficiently. The business community in the emirate has benefited from both excellent physical infrastructure and supportive government policies.

COVID-19 placed considerable pressure on an economy that was very firmly integrated on the global trade map. Policy makers adopted some of the most stringent restrictions early in the pandemic before focusing on the remedial actions needed to keep the emirate open. This included the early and speedy rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations and strict adherence to public safety regulations. The emirate was among the first global travel destinations to re-open for travellers, and its logistics and transport infrastructure was able to successfully transition to meet the needs of a global economy in flux, with Emirates for example re-fitting its planes to move cargo and vaccines as global travel dropped. These policies have allowed the emirate to weather the pandemic and rebound robustly in 2021. While metrics across most economic parameters are yet to reach pre-pandemic levels, Dubai sits in a good place with its high-quality infrastructure capacity, and proactive policies that keep the economy open for business as the pandemic continues to evolve.   

Dubai’s economy is well position to successfully transition onto the next phase of its economic cycle. Capacity uptake will be a key measure of that success, and we will see an increasing shift from physical infrastructure build-up to policy measures that hone and deliver on the “soft-infrastructure” needed to support the emirate’s long term growth strategies. In this paper we look at some of the highlights we believe, are critical to the long-term economic potential of the emirate. We start by trade, looking at the post pandemic recovery, and how important a role Dubai plays as global trade axis. We also look at pan-UAE manufacturing policies that will drive the path forward for that sector as a critical part of the emirate’s economic diversification. E-commerce has become an important backbone of the Dubai’s retail sector, and fintech solutions are playing a critical part in empowering that. Sustainability is now central to every enterprise operating in the emirate given the UAE net zero 2050 goals. Finally, the property market recovered strongly in 2021, and tourism is on a recovery path facing the headwinds of the pandemic, for both sectors adaptability is key.  

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Emirates NBD Research Research Analyst

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