How the UAE is transforming itself, to take on a leadership position

The last few years have witnessed rapid and dramatic change in the UAE. While business friendly measures and proactive investments into emerging technologies have understandably attracted headlines, an even greater transformation is also underway, in the UAE. The soft power of nations, and there stature of the world stage, is often tied to the rights and privileges they extend to their residents. In this context the UAE has taken major strides, by either relaxing once stringent restrictions, or taking bold steps to lead global change.

Integrating more deeply with the outside world

The UAE has long hosted a very sizable expatriate community, which is considerably larger than the number of the nation’s citizens. Although the Emirates have been a land of opportunity, in which people from all around world have built sterling careers, there have also been some restrictions that these non-Emiratis have had to contend with, in the past. However, in just the last few months, numerous new regulations have been passed, to remedy this situation.

For instance, after introducing ‘Golden Visas’ for high net worth individuals and investors in 2018, the UAE has now widened the eligibility(1). The scheme has been extended to include all holders of doctorate degrees, medical doctors, engineers with an information technology, electrical and biotechnology specialization, programmers, those with specialized degrees in artificial intelligence, big data and epidemiology, etc.

Free zones in the UAE had already opened the door for greater ease of doing business, for non-Emirati businesses. 100% foreign ownership of companies, without the need for local sponsors, has also been introduced recently(2). Who knows? Citizenship for non-Emiratis could be on the cards as well. Ushering in the era of a UAE better integrated with the world.

Greater personal freedoms, for residents

The UAE has recently decriminalized the consumption of alcohol and cohabiting outside marriage(3). It has also introduced much tougher sentences for men harassing women and other laws that extend personal freedoms. These changes reflect a tolerant and welcoming nation, which is secure in its cultural roots and mores, and is also accepting of the lifestyles of others. There is some speculation that decriminalizing marijuana, which has successfully been trialed in many states in the US, as well as some European countries, without negative social impact, could be next on the cards.

Creating a progressive UAE that sets standards for peace, equality and prosperity

There are several more recent developments that indicate the arrival of a new, more liberal UAE, onto the world stage. While visa relaxations were already indicative of a nation more welcoming of the globe’s diversity, the UAE’s exemplary religious tolerance makes even secular & democratic countries as US & India look small. In line with this approach, the UAE took the initiative to break an age old taboo in the Arab world, by signing the ‘Abraham Accord’ with Israel(4).

The UAE government has also attracted a lot of international attention for its prompt and well organized response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as emerging as a hub for the mass storage and distribution of vaccines against the contagion(5).

Perhaps even more significantly than the UAE’s emergence as a global financial hub, it is establishing itself as a leader in the community of nations, by taking the lead in establishing and a nurturing an ethical, compassionate, tolerant and integrated world of the future.


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