UAE: How Ghadan 21 launched by Sheikh Mohamed protected Abu Dhabi from crises

The Dh50 billion programme supported and delivered the transformation of the Emirate’s economy


Waheed Abbas

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Published: Tue 17 May 2022, 7:55 PM

Ghadan 21, launched in 2019 by the UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ensured that the Emirates’ economy and its people are well-shielded from the internal and external shocks and crises including the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Dh50 billion programme supported and delivered the transformation of the Emirate’s economy, knowledge ecosystem, and communities. The accelerator programme drove forward the emirate's development through investments in business, innovation and people.

The first-of-its-kind accelerator programme in the region drove economic development, innovation, and ease of doing business to make Abu Dhabi’s economy one that is even more dynamic and globally integrated. The three-year programme witnessed investments across four strategic pillars – economic, knowledge, liveability and social.

In its first year, 50-plus Ghadan 21 initiatives were delivered by the Executive Committee, which reflected not only the commitment of the authorities but also the fruits this project bore for the public and private sectors during the challenging years of the pandemic.

Importantly, the programme was quite instrumental in overcoming the challenges related to pandemics at both individual and business levels.

In response to the global economic challenges of 2020, the Executive Council launched an economic stimulus package to fast-track key initiatives that are improving the ease of doing business and reducing the cost of living.

In March 2020, under the directives of His Highness Sheikh Mohamed, the Abu Dhabi Government launched the Abu Dhabi Economic Stimulus Package to mitigate the impact on the Emirate’s economy, businesses and individuals of the global Covid-19 health crisis, ensuring continuous fiscal growth and preserving economic gains, lowering the cost of living and providing financial relief.

This Stimulus Package, which was introduced under the Ghadan 21 programme, comprised 16 wide-ranging initiatives aimed at businesses and individuals across Abu Dhabi.

This package helped the Emirate to overcome challenges related to the Covid-19 and paved way for the businesses to sail through successfully during the difficult two years of the pandemic.

This Stimulus Package covered exemptions of registration fees for commercial vehicles and toll gate tariffs. Under this programme, Dh5 billion were allocated to subsidise water and electricity for citizens and commercial and industrial activities

In addition, Under Ghadan 21, “Mangrove Walk” was launched to enhance and celebrate the UAE capital’s unique habitat.

The Oxford Business Group noted in a report that the emirate was quick to respond to pandemic challenges and Ghadan 21 spearheaded the efforts to attract investment for a broader range of economic activities and increase non-oil exports.

It added that Abu Dhabi prioritised support for start-ups and SMEs as part of its broader efforts to alleviate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, reaffirming their commitment to nurturing the private sector and bolstering the emirate’s non-oil economy. “We expect these, and other measures aligned with the objectives mapped out in the Ghadan 21 strategy, to gather momentum as Abu Dhabi moves to further broaden its economic base,” it had said in a report.

Ghadan was also quite successful in attracting foreign direct investment (FDI) into Abu Dhabi.

A study by the UN Conference on Trade and Development =stated that the launch of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office under the Ghadan 21 programme enhanced the commercial ecosystem and cultivated an attractive and diversified environment for FDI.

Mohammed Shaheen, CEO of Seven Capitals, said through Ghadan 21, the Government is investing in initiatives that make doing business easier and more attractive, encourage ideas and support innovation for a tech-enabled future, as well as ensure the well-being of Abu Dhabi’s people.

“Ghadan 21’s efforts have been broad and sweeping, with a raft of programmes and initiatives rolled out to further improve Abu Dhabi’s infrastructure, healthcare, education, culture, environment and overall quality of life. Making Abu Dhabi one of the best places in the world to invest and innovate was at the core of Ghadan 21’s mission and at the centre of the mandate of the Abu Dhabi Investment Office (Adio), which has been expanded under the programme to increase foreign direct investment to the emirate and provide guidance to investors,” added Shaheen.

Vijay Valecha, chief investment officer at Century Financial, said Ghadan 21 enabled the government to adapt to a series of external shocks, such as geopolitical tensions, a poor global growth outlook, and a prolonged drop in oil prices that began in mid-2014.

“Ghadan 21's activities aided in alleviating the suffering of residents and businesses, particularly smaller ones. In terms of progress, statistically speaking, the Hub71 accelerator community in Abu Dhabi Global Markets, supported by Abu Dhabi’s Ghadan 21 stimulus programme, has succeeded in attracting 102 startups to Abu Dhabi,” he said.

The initiative, according to Valecha, aided in the acceleration of payment of government invoices, resulting in an increase in cash flow in the overall economy.

Moreover, some of Ghadan 21’s initiatives also contributed to the work of the Department of Culture and Tourism – Abu Dhabi (DCT Abu Dhabi) in boosting tourism growth, improving cultural, leisure, and business tourism, diversifying income sources and providing more job opportunities, all in line with the UAE Vision 2021 and the vision to promote Abu Dhabi as an international hub.

“Over the past couple of years, the programme has enhanced the capital’s competitiveness and has accelerated its economic, social, and developmental growth,” added Valecha.


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