New reg­u­la­tions in the cap­i­tal ‘within weeks’ will en­cour­age in­vest­ment and in­crease so­cial sta­bil­ity


A se­ries of amend­ments to Abu Dhabi’s res­i­dency reg­u­la­tions are be­ing pre­pared by the emi­rate’s ex­ec­u­tive coun­cil and the UAE Cab­i­net.

The changes will en­cour­age ex­pa­tri­ates to in­vest in the cap­i­tal and will in­crease their so­cial sta­bil­ity, state news agency Wam re­ported. The amend­ments are ex­pected within weeks.

While de­tails of the changes have yet to be re­leased, the an­nounce­ment comes a month af­ter Ah­mad bin Ghan­nam, act­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of in­ter­na­tional eco­nomic re­la­tions at Abu Dhabi’s Depart­ment of Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment, said the min­istry was work­ing on in­cen­tives to at­tract foreign in­vestors that in­cluded changes to cor­po­rate own­er­ship laws.

“What you can ex­pect is fur­ther open­ing of own­er­ship in the emi­rate of Abu Dhabi in co-or­di­na­tion with the Min­istry of Econ­omy,” he said.

The Min­istry of Econ­omy is work­ing on a long-awaited UAE in­vest­ment law ex­pected to dra­mat­i­cally change the com­mer­cial land­scape of the coun­try, par­tic­u­larly in the non-oil sec­tor, by al­low­ing 100 per cent foreign eq­uity own­er­ship in cer­tain sec­tors. The law was ex­pected to be rat­i­fied in the first quar­ter of this year.

Un­der cur­rent laws, any foreign com­pany in Abu Dhabi must have an Emi­rati part­ner who owns 51 per cent of the shares, un­less it is in a free zone.

Some of the ex­pected changes in­clude amend­ments to res­i­dency reg­u­la­tions for re­tirees, longer res­i­dency visas, new types of visas and longer stu­dent visas – which are cur­rently is­sued a year at a time.

“The aim is to pro­tect the lo­cal in­vestor in a way that does not weaken the op­por­tu­ni­ties, ef­fi­ciency and com­pet­i­tive­ness of all cat­e­gories of in­vestors,” Wam re­ported.

Ziad Sal­loum, a lawyer, said open­ing up own­er­ship to ex­pa­tri­ates would ben­e­fit Abu Dhabi’s econ­omy as a whole.

“There may be com­pa­nies who might be con­cerned about com­ing into the coun­try and find­ing a suit­able part­ner to build their busi­ness.”

But, he said “there are a lot of firms who have been do­ing busi­ness in the UAE for decades and [there are] many ways to mit­i­gate con­cerns”.

“For ex­am­ple, they can agree with the Emi­rati on the per­cent­age of share­hold­ing each part­ner will have and agree in ad­vance over how the com­pany will be man­aged, but that’s not to say that open­ing up the laws might not ben­e­fit the coun­try as a whole, clearly the Rulers see sig­nif­i­cant ben­e­fit to this.”

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